Boston Schools' Spending On Athletics Questioned

The Boston Public Schools are the target of three investigations into spending on athletic equipment and supplies, according to a Boston Globe report published Wednesday. The Boston Finance Commission, city police, and the Massachusetts inspector general are looking into possible misspending.

The details of the allegations have not been made public, but the school department acknowledged that it is cooperating with the investigations.

In May, Karen Given and I reported a six-part series titled Budgets & Box Scores: Funding Sports In Boston Public Schools for WBUR, Boston that concluded with a story on Only A Game. The city's current budget for athletics is $3.1 million dollars and the school department relies heavily on support from outside groups. The series focused on two of the charities that have taken on a major role in working with BPS student athletes in the past few years: Boston Scholar Athletes and PlayBall!.

The Boston Scholar Athletes' primary focus is working with students to help improve their academics, which in turn helps them to earn or maintain their eligibility for school sports. The organization is not directly involved with school teams or games.

The BSA did not comment on the investigations, but told the Globe:

“We will continue to support and serve our student athletes in the same way we have over the last four years.”

PlayBall! coordinates and funds sports for middle school students. The organization spends more than $400,000 a year to support four sports, providing uniforms, equipment and transportation, as well as paying coaches and referees.

In response to our request for PlayBall!'s reaction to the news of the investigations, PlayBall! founder Michael Harney wrote:

"Play Ball is NOT involved in any of this. We manage our own budget and buy our own equipment. We occasional[ly] rely on BPS athletics to provide vendor names to contact for bids, but that’s it. We have been aware of this issue for some time now and more than anything [it] just reinforced to us why our process is such a more efficient one. ...  BPS spending historically has had no impact on our spending, as we fund 100% of the cost year in and year out."

The news of the investigation comes as the city is preparing for major changes in leadership inside and outside the school department.  BPS Athletic Director Kenneth Still is set to retire in October. BPS Superintendent Carol Johnson retired at the end of the school year, in part because of the recent death of her husband. The search for Johnson's successor is underway. Long-time Boston Mayor Tom Menino is not seeking reelection this fall. There are 12 candidates running to replace him.

This program aired on July 18, 2013. The audio for this program is not available.

Doug Tribou Reporter/Producer
Doug Tribou was formerly a reporter and producer at WBUR and for WBUR's Only A Game.



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