Citing Improprieties, State Ends County Superintendant’s Oversight Of Child Care Program

SAN BERNARDINO—The California Department of Education has revoked the San Bernardino County Superintendent of Schools oversight over the administration of the annual $58.4 million KidsNCare program. The action was taken after a complaint-triggered state audit and the county superintendant office’s own internal investigation found “improprieties” with the manner in which the program was being handled.
The state began to look into San Bernardino County’s KidsNCare program late last year and concluded an audit in January.
KidsNCare offers a subsidized child care programs for families who meet California Department of Education guidelines, which include low income and need. The care is provided for the children of impoverished parents while those heads of household are working, in school or training or away from home seeking employment. KidsNCare also includes a child care food program making nutritious meals available to children twelve years of age and younger who are in licensed family child care homes.
According to an individual who reviewed it, that audit was highly unfavorable to the county’s management of the program, for which more than 90 employees work assisting 7,500 children and their families countywide. The audit found multiple examples of the project being out of compliance with state requirements. The audit has not yet been publicly released.
County superintendent of schools Gary Thomas, whose office has operated and administered the program for the last 25 years, was caught flatfooted by the audit, preliminary results of which were confided to him 45 days ago. He responded by having the county department of schools carry out an internal investigation. This week, Thomas bowed to the inevitable.
“After conducting the investigation, we found there was inappropriate activity with how the program was administered, which put it in violation with the provisions required by the state,” Thomas said in a statement. “Because of those findings, the California Department of Education will not be renewing the KidsNCare contract with our office.”
Thomas did not go beyond the language of his prepared statement.
One issue for the state is that the San Bernardino County Department of Schools has been depositing over $3 million per year in money intended for the child care program into its general fund under the auspices of recouping administrative costs. Because of lapses in accounting procedures it is unclear whether that money was used for its intended purpose.
County Board of Education member Gil Navarro said Thomas had not informed the board of the audit, the internal investigation or its likely outcome, having kept silent about the matter despite a board meeting that was held two days before the state action was announced.
The state must give the county department of education 75 days notice before defunding a program.  KidsNCare’s contract with the state ends June 30.

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