Kansas City Public Schools is returning $192,730 after a recent investigation revealed inaccurate attendance data was reported between 2013 and 2016.
Missouri’s Department of Elementary and Secondary Education (DESE) confirmed the amount with KCPS leadership.
Dr. Mark Bedell, superintendent of KCPS and Pattie Mansur, board chair, addressed the community Wednesday, Nov. 20 to give details on the findings and to apologize to the community.
Although the years in question occurred before Dr. Bedell became superintendent, he said he is taking full responsibility to right the wrong.
“My reputation around how honest and transparent I’ve been with this community and the fact that we are doing this investigation the way we did, should further substantiate that we are doing things the right way,” he said in a November 20 interview.
Of the seven individuals who are responsible for the fraudulent reports, three are no longer employed with KCPS and four are on administrative leave.
The higher attendance percentages that were reported resulted in the district receiving a higher-than-earned score in the Missouri School Improvement Performance Standards as well as more funding from the state than was actually earned.
Dr. Bedell said the motivation behind reporting higher attendance numbers was for accreditation purposes, not for money.
The total amount due is a combination of $111,705 KCPS received that they shouldn’t have and $81,025 Kansas City charter schools did not receive as a result, bringing the total KCPS owes to $192,730.
In the November 20 interview, Dr. Bedell said he was prepared to pay back the amount, whatever the cost.
KCPS intends to submit the repayment of the funds within the next two weeks.
Dr. Bedell said this incident does hurt the perception the community may have of the school district.
“It hurts us from a perception standpoint and that’s something we’ve been fighting,” he said. “We’ve been fighting perception for a long time and something like this will reinforce some of the negative feelings people have had about this system. I don’t want my faculty and staff to become discouraged regarding something that occurred before our time. We want to make sure that our people are encouraged that what they are doing is good work and it’s done with honesty and integrity and we are truly adding value to the lives of the children that are in our district.”
KCPS is currently reviewing the state data and board’s discussion regarding the final Annual Progress Report (APR) results and the State Board of Education’s discussion regarding the district’s accreditation status and will release a full response early next week.
“We would like to acknowledge the release of Annual Performance Report numbers from the Department of Elementary and Secondary Education today,” said Dr. Bedell. “KCPS is aware of our calculations and we are taking time to review our data so that we can have a bigger conversation with our staff, families and community next week in conjunction with our School Board meeting on December 11. We are looking forward to conveying our thoughts about the APR release to our staff, families and community then. We have much to celebrate along with our opportunities for growth.”
“The Kansas City School Board is eager to dive into the district’s APR data with Superintendent Bedell and the leadership team to examine where we are seeing successes and the areas that need greater attention,” said Pattie Mansur. “We look forward to discussing the state’s required performance measures with district staff, families and community members and our progress toward full accreditation. Academic excellence is our central focus, and a commitment we take seriously on behalf of Kansas City’s children.”
Dr. Bedell said ultimately, he is taking full ownership of the incident and will continue to strive to serve and improve the district every step of the way.
“At the end of the day, I’m not throwing anyone under the bus for this. I own it. When I signed up to take this district, I signed up to take everything that was good about it, everything that was bad about it, everything that was ugly about it. My job is to make sure we eliminate the ugly and the bad to the best of my ability.”