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WA school districts failed to document $31M in federal Covid grants, audit finds

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State audits of Washington school districts found that 25 districts failed to properly document more than $31 million in federal Covid funds meant to buy laptops, tablets, and internet hotspots for staff and students during remote learning.

Seattle, Everett, Edmonds, and Mukilteo were among the districts that auditors found to have failed to show that the technology purchased through a Federal Communications Commission grant went only to students and staff with a demonstrated need.

“We have uncovered no evidence that the funding was was misappropriated, nothing like that,” said Kathleen Cooper, State Auditor’s Office spokesperson. “It's just a lack of documentation to show that the program qualifications were met.”

Because so many districts were out of compliance with the grant requirements, Cooper said, State Auditor Pat McCarthy suspected that part of the problem was with the instructions districts received about how to document the grant spending. McCarthy has met with the FCC about the issue, Cooper said.

“It is now up to the school districts to work with the FCC on an audit resolution process, which will be an opportunity for both parties to take a look at whether or not those funds have to be repaid,” Cooper said.

Seattle Public Schools had $4.9 million in questioned grant funds that it received to buy online learning devices.

In a statement, a spokesperson for Seattle Schools said the district disagrees that it was out of compliance.

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