Chicago Public Schools Employees Accused Of Lying On Federal Forms To Get Their Children Reduced Or Free Lunch

A dozen Chicago Public Schools principals and assistant principals have been removed from their posts following allegations that they lied on forms to get their children free or reduced lunches, the Chicago Tribune reports.

They are among 26 current or former CPS employees accused of lying on federal school lunch forms that allowed their combined 45 children to receive free or reduced-price lunches at 40 schools across the district, according to the Chicago Sun-Times.

The school officials, whose names have not been released since they have yet to participate in due process hearings on the allegations, would face disciplinary action, including termination.

Free or reduced lunch depends on family size and income. During the 2011-12 school year, students in a family of four qualified for free lunch if their family income was less than $29,055. They qualified for the reduced rate if their families made less than $41,348.

Included in the 12 is one couple -- a principal married to an assistant principal -- who have a combined income of over $230,000 and are accused of living in the suburbs in violation of the district’s city residency policy while sending their children to Chicago Public Schools for free, says Schools Inspector General James Sullivan.

According to Sullivan, a central office education “deputy” and a “deputy network chief” were also accused of lying on federal lunch forms for their own kids when they were principals.

The findings come after a probe by the district and Inspector General into school lunch fraud, and an analysis of district records from the 2009-10 school year and beyond.

“The investigation by the [inspector general] has uncovered continuing fraud in this program and we will not stand for any lapse in ethical judgment by our school leaders,” CPS Chief Jean-Claude Brizard said in a statement Friday.

According to the Tribune, a similar investigation last summer found 14 employees at CPS’ North Grand High School guilty of falsifying school lunch forms to improperly qualify for free or reduced lunches. Five were terminated by the Chicago school board, two resigned and one case is still pending before the Illinois State Board of Education. Six employees have been suspended or are awaiting disciplinary actions.

Federal lunch forms reduce the cost of a CPS lunch from $2.50 to $2.25. In addition, they generate “hundreds of millions of dollars” for the district in the form of reimbursements for lunches, federal poverty dollars for schools and state funding, Sullivan said.

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