Senator Christopher J. Connors, Assemblyman Brian E. Rumpf and Assemblywoman DiAnne C. Gove are calling the State Comptroller’s recent report on an audit revealing false income information supplied by applicants for the Free School Lunch Program the latest glaring example of how New Jersey’s school funding formula fails students and taxpayers.
In a report released by the Office of the State Comptroller (OSC) were the results of an investigation that found widespread fraud in the National School Lunch Program in New Jersey school districts.
As detailed in the report, 15 school districts were audited by the OSC over a three-year period and found that 109 individuals, including public employees, public officials and members of their households, provided false information about their incomes in an effort to take advantage of the program. In all, 83 public employees were referred for prosecution along with 26 individuals who are either a spouse or another member of a public employee’s household.
The 9th District Legislators issued the following statement regarding the Comptroller’s report:
“The Comptroller’s report only strengthened the case for reforming the state’s school funding formula which uses the number of students enrolled in the free school lunch program as a factor in determining state aid levels for school districts. It is important to stress that this is not a case of mismanagement but of outright fraud.
“In emphasizing the program’s role in the distribution of funding, the report commented that some school districts have hosted a barbeque lunch and sign-in fairs in a deliberate effort to enroll more children into the program. It would appear that tying state aid to the number of children enrolled in the program has invited fraud and abuse. As a consequence, responsible school districts have been denied much needed state aid as taxpayers were being fleeced.
“For years, our Delegation has consistently called for reforming the state’s school funding formula in light of the disparate treatment shown to suburban and rural districts in terms of funding levels. However, the outrageous, systemic acts of fraud detailed in the Comptroller’s report only add a whole new dynamic to the issue. Given how widespread the fraud appears to be, the Comptroller’s findings should serve as a catalyst for an open and serious debate on how the state’s school funding formula should be reformed to better serve our children and taxpayers.”