Field audits could catch school district problems

By Jeff Amy/The Associated Press

JACKSON — As state officials were laying out the Aberdeen school district’s problems before taking it over, an accrediting commission member asked why state officials didn’t investigate problems earlier.

State officials said they didn’t know. Mississippi once routinely checking districts for accreditation compliance every five years. Visits stopped more than a decade ago, in part because of lack of money.

That’s about to change. The state budget beginning July 1 allots $500,000 to the Department of Education to audit district compliance with state rules. Officials hope to find and correct problems before they develop into crises requiring a state takeover or withdrawal of accreditation.

Paula Vanderford, who leads accreditation efforts for the state, says the money should be enough to make field visits to 10 or 12 of the state’s 152 districts.