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Auditor Alleges Mismanagement Of State Special Ed Collaboratives

BOSTON — Decades of mismanagement have plagued some of the state’s special education collaboratives, according to a new report released by the state auditor’s office.

The report alleges that the Merrimack Special Education Collaborative, the READS Collaborative and the Southern Massachusetts Educational Collaborative have misspent millions of taxpayers dollars.

“Clearly, what it boils down to is really a serious lack of state and local oversight capacity,” Bump told Morning Edition’s Bob Oakes.

The education collaboratives are organizations of public school districts that pool resources in order to provide educational and therapeutic services to special needs students.

Some of the allegations in the reports include inflated pay at the collaboratives and inappropriate relationships with other nonprofits.

“There are a number of common elements that are really concerning,” Bump said. “There’s evidence of governance problems, including collaborative board members also sitting on the boards of related organizations with which they do business. There are clear conflict of interest issues there.”

Bump also said she had discovered failures to provide appropriately licensed professionals for work with special needs students, inappropriate spending on entertainment and staff salaries and accumulated surpluses that should have been returned to member school districts.

The report calls for changes in state oversight of the collaboratives.

“It has been almost 40 years since these collaboratives were allowed to exist under state law and there really has not been the kind of ongoing attention that has been given to the general school districts,” Bump said. “They are working on laws that don’t place the same emphasis on accountability and transparency — (laws) that give the state the same oversight authority that they have over other schools.”

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