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New Mexico report questions handling of charter school funds

Posted August 30

— Officials from the New Mexico State Auditor's office said the Public Education Department cannot adequately explain how it spent $20 million for administrative support, as they briefed a panel of state lawmakers on Wednesday.

The Santa Fe New Mexican reported (http://bit.ly/2x6i047 ) that State Auditor Tim Keller's review of funds for charter schools raised questions on how the spending is tracked and if those funds are going toward the intended purpose. The $20 million the review identifies was spent over a five-year period.

The Public Education Department and school districts with charter schools are allowed to withhold 2 percent of each charter school's program costs to provide administrative assistance.

Keller said the review shows a "lack of transparency and accountability", and he called on the department to make changes.

A spokesman for the Public Education Department said Keller's review was misinformed.

"One of our top priorities will always be to ensure that classroom spending is used properly and well-accounted for," agency spokeswoman Lika Alikhani said in an email. "We provide regular training to districts and charters in developing their budgets."

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