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Audit of JCPS spending to be released by end of school year

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LOUISVILLE, KY (WAVE) - There is new information about a probe into Jefferson County Public Schools and how they're spending your money. For the first time we are learning when the Kentucky Auditor may release the findings of his year long examination.

Kentucky Auditor Adam Edelen says his special examination into the Jefferson County Public School System is in its final stages. The report will be out sometime after Derby.

"We'll be in a position to release what we found to the school district and to the public by the end of the school year," Edelen said. He added "I do think there will be concern," over what his investigators found.

In a one on one interview from his Frankfort office, Edelen said a team of 12 investigators is focusing on spending in the JCPS central office. He said they're trying to identify waste in everything from vendor contracts to travel.

In January, A WAVE 3 News Troubleshooter Investigation revealed that in the 2012-2013 school year, JCPS spent $1,153,868 on travel. Mostly on professional development trips for staff members that spanned dozens of cities from coast to coast.

While Edelen would not comment on travel specifically, he said all spending is on the table and problems have already been identified.

"We don't do whitewashes and we don't do fishing expeditions," Edelen said. "We do fact based investigations that at the end of the day are merciless in how committed we are to the facts."

Edelen said continuing tax hikes by the school system and the growing list of school supplies required to be paid for by parents make the special examination especially important. They even sent out a survey to 5,000 teachers and principals to find out what classroom supplies they're paying for out of their own pocket that should be coming out of the budget.

The goal: trimming as much fat from the top, and returning that money to the classroom.

"Because when then budgets get cut, we need to make sure it's not just the classroom that's feeling the impact," he said.

In a statement, JCPS Superintendent Dr. Donna Hargens said the school board called for the audit, and she supported the special examination.

"It reflects our commitment to continuous improvement, and to directing as many of our resources as possible to academic achievement," Hargens wrote. "We believe the results of this endeavor will benefit not only our students and the district, but the taxpayers of Jefferson County as well."

In that same email, JCPS spokesman Ben Jackey added, ""It's also  important to note that since Dr. Hargens arrived in Louisville she has been a catalyst to operational change and continuous fiscal improvement."

Jackey listed the following initiatives by Hargens to reduce spending direct more resources to our schools:

1)    CMA and restructuring of cabinet and elimination of central office positions resulted in $4.4 million in savings
2)    Grade 8 and above positions (many of whom make 100k) did not receive raises or step increases this fiscal year
3)    Vacant positions have been frozen and are being analyzed for how they align with the district's mission
4)    Positions have been reclassified to align with the district mission and reduce salary where possible
5)    Redlining was eliminated (the decades old practice of someone being demoted and but getting to keep their salaries)
6)    More resources in terms of staff and other materials are being spent in schools than before the superintendent's arrival
7)    Non-instructional food reduced by more than a million dollars in 1 year.
8)    Funding appropriated for extended learning days for struggling students

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