Reporting Pam Zekman
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CHICAGO (CBS) – A dozen Chicago principals and assistant principals have been removed for allegedly scheming to obtain free or reduced-price school lunches for their own children.
The dozen are accused of falsifying forms to make it appear that their children were eligible for the lunches, which are reserved for students from low-income families.
CBS 2 Investigator Pam Zekman and the Better Government Association exposed school lunch fraud at North Grand High School in July 2010. They found teachers there not reporting their salaries in order to obtain free lunches.
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“We have to be able to trust these individuals to educate our children and to teach them values and to be honest and ethical,” BGA President Andy Shaw said Friday. “For them to be overseeing a scam in which they’re ripping off a federal poverty program is scandalous. It’s disgraceful, it’s absolutely reprehensible. Thank goodness a courageous group of employees came forward and said something.”
The investigation has since widened, and now includes these 12 educators removed by Chicago Public School administrators. CPS is not naming the educators pending due process hearings.
“The investigation by the [Office of 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 Executive Officer Jean-Claude Brizard said in a statement.
Inspector General James Sullivan said his office has uncovered 55 CPS employees falsifying lunch form data over the past four years.
Students qualify for free or reduced lunch based 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; students in a family of four qualify for reduced rate lunch if their family income is below $41,348.
The investigation showed that those removed today were completing the forms for their children at the schools they attended, not necessarily the schools where they worked.
CPS officials will work to ensure that interim principals are installed at schools as needed.