DOUGLAS COUNTY – The Douglas County School District owes the state $4.2 million after a Colorado Department of Education audit found the district was overpaid for the number of full-time students enrolled.
Routine audits of the 2012-2013 and 2013-2014 school years showed the district wrongfully counted 1,200 students as full time, according to CDE spokesperson Dana Smith. State law says a full-time student must receive at least 360 hours of scheduled instruction per semester. The audit found some students missed the time requirement by three hours; others fell short by 200 hours, Smith said.
In an open letter, DCSD Superintendent Liz Fagen disputed the audits. She says "bookkeeping issues" caused auditors to misidentify full-time students as part time.
"They had either graduated the previous year or were graduating that spring with above average credits, and had attended, on average, over 97% of the time," Fagen wrote.
Fagen says increasing class sizes and budget cuts forced high schools to restructure schedules in recent years. That included requiring teachers to oversee six sections, instead of five each semester. Fagen says it allowed high schools to add more than 100 new sections per semester, and reduced class sizes to 30 students. She says many schools also worked to keep up advisement opportunities for students.
In February 2014, Fagen says the CDE became concerned with documentation regarding advisement. She says schools immediately worked with the CDE to "fix the documentation issue."
CDE Commissioner Robert Hammond denied the district's appeal of the audits on Wednesday. In a letter to Fagen, Hammond said the district made errors when calculating the new schedules. "The evidence that we have received indicate the district was aware of the potential shortage in the scheduled time, however it did not correct the problem until the 2014-15 school year," Hammond wrote.
Fagen's open letter implies the DCSD may take legal action to further dispute the audit. "We will use every legal pathway to ensure that these dollars stay in our high schools," Fagen wrote.
The audit's findings will not affect the district's future funding, Smith said.
(KUSA-TV © 2015 Multimedia Holdings Corporation)