LCS over awards "Best and Brightest" scholarship by nearly $200,000

Published: Dec. 22, 2017 at 3:04 PM EST
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By: Mariel Carbone | WCTV Eyewitness News

December 22, 2017

TALLAHASSEE, Fla. (WCTV)—According to an audit done by the State of Florida Audit General, the Leon County School District has awarded nearly $200,000 to employees who did not meet requirements for a state scholarship.

The scholarship is called the “Florida Best and Brightest Teacher Scholarship Program.” It’s intended to be a reward for teachers who received high academic standards while they were in school. It’s backed by the Florida Legislature.

To be eligible, teachers must have ranked in the 80th percentile or higher during a college entrance exam and be evaluated as "highly effective."

This year, 193 district employees and seven charter school employees received the scholarship, totaling $1.4 million. However, according to the audit, 27 of those district employees did not meet state law requirements, meaning $184,057 were given out to those who were not eligible.

At the charter level, $20,451 were awarded to three recipients who were not eligible.

The audit said that scholarships were given to people who did not meet state requirements of what classified a teacher, and to teachers who were not rated as “highly effective” in the classroom.

"It was an accounting error that we worked to rectify as soon as we saw it. Unfortunately, we are not the only county to have gone through this,” said Leon County Schools Spokesperson Chris Petley. “We are working with our employees to rectify that error."

According to a response by the district, employees that have been affected have been, or will be notified, and will be required to pay back the scholarships.

“Each employee was (will be) allowed to select one of three repayment options. Several employees have fully repaid and others are participating in a repayment plan suitable to their specific circumstances,” said the district.

That includes a more sufficient system to accept required application documents, a new application form to capture qualifications and a new form to verify classroom teacher responsibilities.

Furthermore, a comprehensive review process will be done by human resources.