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Mississippi Department of Education facing 19m deficit

JACKSON, Miss. – The Mississippi Department of Education (MDE) announced Thursday that because of an over-commitment of federal funds for 21st Century Community Learning Centers (CCLC) in 2015-16, new grants for the 2016-17 school year will not be issued. 

The MDE has been faced with a deficit up to $19 million in 21st Century grant funds as a result of a shortfall for the 2015-16 school year, according to a statement from MDE.

The 21st Century grants provide federal funding after school programs in high-poverty areas.

Statewide, 110 after-school programs received 21st Century grants in 2015-16. The multiyear grants are renewable for up to five years, as long as funds are available. Matching funds are required by the grantee in years three, four and five as the percentage of federal funds is reduced. Programs could be awarded more than one grant.

Mississippi was awarded $14.1 million for 21st Century programs for the 2015-16 school year.

The over-commitment error occurred when MDE’s Office of Federal Programs (OFP) issued 46 new grants in 2015-16 without budgeting for 65 grantees that were continuing from the previous year. OFP issued reimbursements from 21st Century and Title I funds to both new and continuing grantees, which created the deficit. While funds were taken from both 21stCentury and Title I accounting sources, the MDE anticipates no impact on Title I disbursements to districts.

The MDE is working with the U.S. Department of Education (– USED) to develop a comprehensive plan to fill the deficit while attempting to minimize the impact to grantees. Details of the plan will be released once they are finalized.

“We are working rapidly and seriously to take steps that will minimize impact to grantees, to ensure accountability for individuals who ignored financial checks and balances, and to put systems in place to ensure accurate future budgeting,” said Dr. Carey Wright, state superintendent of education.

“My highest priority is to ensure we serve schools, families and taxpayers with integrity,” Wright said, noting that individuals responsible for the error had been terminated.

Districts and organizations that received 21st Century grants in 2015-16 are not authorized to commit 21st Century grant funds for the 2016-17 school year until further notice.

“The MDE takes seriously the trust and accountability expected of a state agency that serves the children and families of Mississippi,” Wright said. “The MDE realizes that school districts and community programs across the state depend on 21st Century grants to provide after-school programming and regrets the position in which grantees have been placed.”

The Aberdeen School District, Boys & Girls Club of the Gulf Coast, Jackson Public Schools, Hinds County School District, Perry County School District and the Sunflower County Ministerial Alliance Counseling Services, Inc. all had grants that totaled $500,000.

A list of providers that received 21st Century grants in 2015-16 can be found here.

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