The Oklahoma Attorney General on Tuesday dismissed a state lawsuit against a vendor hired to distribute federal education pandemic relief funds, saying claims made under his predecessor were “almost completely without merit.” I decided that
Former Attorney General John O’Connor filed a lawsuit in August, alleging that ClassWallet’s parent company, Florida-based Kleo, failed to properly oversee the funds.
Gentner Drummond, who defeated O’Connor in the Republican primary and took office on Jan. 9, should be held personally or state officials accountable for his role in what he called “a gross misuse of tax dollars.” He said he would focus on what “
In a written statement announcing his dismissal, Drummond said, “It is clear that many state officials and other individuals are ultimately responsible for the squandering of millions of dollars in federal relief money. .
The dismissal marks a course change in state investigations into overpayments under the federal COVID-19 Relief Program. An investigation revealed that her more than $500,000 in aid funds for children’s education were spent on televisions, grills, furniture, Christmas trees and hundreds of other non-educational items. oklahoma watch and the frontier clearly.
State officials hired ClassWallet in 2020 to distribute $17.3 million to the Federal Governor’s Emergency Education Relief Fund, a program also known as GEER. ClassWallet has two of his offerings: Stay in School, which provides private school families with up to $6,500 in tuition assistance, and Bridge the Gap Digital Wallet, which provides low-income families with a $1,500 grant to purchase educational materials. served one program.
Oklahoma paid ClassWallet $650,000 from its GEER allocation.
After the misappropriated funds were revealed, the state accused ClassWallet of allowing parents to use the platform to purchase items “not directly related to education.” Records show that states may have restricted what parents could purchase and instead gave “bulk approval” to all items from approved vendors such as Office Depot and Staples.
The Oklahoma attorney never appeared in ClassWallet, which meant the company never had a chance to respond in court, and some critics wondered whether the lawsuit was an honest attempt to recoup funds. I began to question what was going on.
A spokeswoman for Gov. Kevin Stitt responded to the dismissal of the lawsuit in this emailed statement.
Stit spokeswoman Kate Vesper said, “The governor’s office strongly opposes the decision to dismiss the state’s legitimate efforts to recover federal taxpayer dollars from rogue out-of-state vendors.
ClassWallet said through a spokesperson that it was pleased the state had dismissed the lawsuit.
Prior to being elected state superintendent of public education, Ryan Walters helped ClassWallet secure contracts and made key program decisions as secretary of education and executive director of Every Kid Counts Oklahoma. That’s what the research revealed. oklahoma watch When frontier Published in May. Every Kid Counts Oklahoma was the public face of the Bridge the Gap program.
Former secretaries of education Michael Rogers and Brent Bussey, executive directors of the Oklahoma Public Schools Resource Center, a nonprofit organization in Oklahoma City, also played key roles in launching the program.
In July, the watchdog advised the U.S. Department of Education to recover at least $650,000 in wasted funds and asked states to consider purchasing an additional $5.5 million, according to a federal audit.
Oklahoma returned $2.9 million of unused GEER dollars to the federal government, some of which was reallocated to the state education department.
The U.S. Department of Education is working with Oklahoma officials to resolve findings from the audit and to strengthen oversight of federal aid, said Roy Loewenstein, spokesman for oversight at the U.S. Department of Education. I was. A few details were given, but oklahoma watch Learned states followed up by GEER recipients.
Last week, the Office of Management and Enterprise Services emailed families about a purchase made with GEER funds.email provided to oklahoma watchthe question: “What was the specific purpose of your purchase during the pandemic?” and “Are you homeschooling your children or are they still in school?”
Additional details on the state’s handling of GEER funds are expected in the annual review of all federal funds by state auditors and inspectors. That report will be released between March and July.
Jennifer Palmer has been an educator for Oklahoma Watch since 2016. Please contact her at (405) 761-0093 or her firstname.lastname@example.org. follow her on her twitter @jpalmerOKC.