The Children’s Trust and the Miami-Dade school district spar over audit

Miami-Dade School Board building
Miami-Dade School Board building

A school board audit committee meeting grew heated Tuesday as the Miami-Dade school district and The Children’s Trust argued over whether the district auditor has the right to monitor programs funded by the trust.

The dispute arose over district auditor Jose Montes de Oca’s annual plan for 2017, which proposed a program audit of activities that involve a partnership between the school district and The Children’s Trust.

Isaac Salver, the treasurer for The Children’s Trust, called the proposed audit “completely inappropriate” and likened it to the school board deciding to audit the local fire department.

“If there is information from The Children’s Trust that the Miami-Dade school district wants, they can do a public-records request like any other citizen,” he said.

Salver argued that the district has no legal authority to audit programs funded by the trust because there is no direct financial relationship between the two institutions. The trust was established by voters in 2002 and is funded by taxpayers, but it cannot directly pay for school district programs. Instead, The Children’s Trust pays for a variety of programs that are run by other organizations, in some cases on school district property.

School Board member Larry Feldman, a member of the committee, agreed with Salver that the district was overstepping its reach with the proposed audit. “I think we’re walking down a very slippery slope,” he told the committee, adding that other organizations partnering with the district might now be concerned about getting put under the microscope. “There are so many organizations out there. I would not want them to believe we’re going down a list one by one,” he said. “I just think it’s bad public relations. It’s bad policy.”

But other committee members and Superintendent Alberto Carvalho argued that the district does have a right to examine programs funded by The Children’s Trust, in part because some of these programs are run on school property and because they involve Miami-Dade students.

Carvalho said the audit was necessary to provide the district with data and other information to better evaluate the effectiveness of the programs.

“The idea here was to have a clear understanding about promises and deliverables [...] in a language that everybody understands,” he said.

After a heated discussion, the committee agreed to narrow the scope of the proposed audit. They voted unanimously to pass an amendment restricting the review to programs on school property that are funded by the trust and designed to provide academic benefits to children who attend Miami-Dade public schools.