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Atlanta Directed to Repay Federal Performance Bonus Money

The Atlanta Journal-Constitution reports that the Atlanta school system has been directed to repay more than $363,000 it received from the federal government for having schools that scored well on the state Criterion-Referenced Competency Tests.

Those high test scores were called into question in a extensive investigation that said close to 200 educators cheated on the CRCT in order to achieve those results.

The schools received anywhere from a few hundred to a few thousand dollars for appearing to make adequate yearly progress three years in a row. But because those schools are not accused of test tampering, they don't deserve the award, state Superintendent John Barge told the newspaper. "It is the right thing to do," he said. From the story:

The unexpected repayment is only a small part of the school district's budget of about $600 million, but it comes as APS is absorbing other costs from the cheating scandal. In addition to almost $700,000 in legal fees, the district pulled $6 million from savings to pay the salaries and benefits of educators on paid administrative leave as a result of the investigation. Those salaries amount to $600,000 per month.

The district also is anticipating a $60 million shortfall next budget year if it doesn't curb spending or pull from savings.

Still, Atlanta Superintendent Erroll Davis said the district should not have a problem repaying the bonus money.

"We have quietly done a good job of budget discipline and cost cutting," Davis said. "So even with this unanticipated amount, I am comfortable we'll be able to meet our budget for this year."

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