July 13, 2012
Chicago Public Schools (CPS) and the Office of the Inspector General (OIG) today jointly announced that 12 principals and assistant principals are being removed from their posts pending due process hearings for allegedly falsifying free and reduced lunch forms for their own children.
The pull-outs of these principals and assistant principals are part of an ongoing investigation into fraud involving the forms that entitle children to receive lunch either without charge or at a reduced rate under a federal meals program.
“The investigation by the OIG has uncovered continuing fraud in this program and we will not stand for any lapse in ethical judgment by our school leaders,” said CPS Chief Executive Officer Jean-Claude Brizard. “CPS employees have an obligation to the students, families and taxpayers of this District to hold themselves to the highest ethical standards. We simply cannot, and will not, allow any employee to break the trust that parents and children of this District place in us every day.”
“All public employee misconduct is disturbing, but when high-paid administrators are involved in lying to get a little extra for themselves and the schools it proves that the problem is systemic and must be dealt with by CPS and its federal funding sources,” said Inspector General James Sullivan. “With these newest cases, the OIG has now uncovered 55 CPS employees in the last four years involved in falsifying lunch form data.”
The names and schools of the principals and assistant principals are not being released immediately pending due process hearings related to their pull-outs. They face disciplinary action up to and including termination. CPS officials will work with Network Chiefs of Schools to ensure that interim principals are installed at schools as needed.
Students qualify for free or reduced lunch based on family size and income. During the 2011-12 school year, students in a family of four qualified for free lunch if their family income was less than $29,055; students in a family of four qualify for reduced rate lunch if their family income is below $41,348.
The OIG findings followed an analysis of records from the 2009-10 school year to the present, although some of the records reviewed preceded that period.
The investigation showed that the principals and assistant principals were completing the forms for their children at the schools they attended, not necessarily the schools which were led by those principals and assistant principals who are implicated.
CPS will continue to work with the OIG in this ongoing investigation and will provide any requested information on school-based staff as well as Central Office and officer-level personnel. The District will also begin matching data from the employee database and student records database to ensure that employees are making accurate representations on lunch forms in the future.
The actions being taken today are a continuation of the ongoing OIG investigation. In June 2011, the OIG reported on serious issues at a high school, later identified as North Grand High School, which included rampant lunch form falsification.
The OIG identified 14 CPS employees who falsified lunch forms for their children who attended the high school and other schools. Of those, five were terminated by the Chicago Board of Education, two resigned in lieu of termination hearings, one termination case is still pending with the Illinois State Board of Education, and six employees have been suspended or are still facing disciplinary action.
“We are working aggressively with the Inspector General, and these actions should send a clear message to anyone who would even consider trying to game the system. These findings are a serious breach of responsibility which we frankly will not stand for,” Brizard said. “We will continue to cooperate with the OIG and take additional actions as warranted, as well as reviewing all elements of the process by which we certify free and reduced lunch forms.”
Chicago Public Schools serves 405,000 students in 675 schools. It is the nation’s third-largest school district.