Massachusetts' state auditor is calling for sweeping reform of oversight and financial accountability for the state's 30 special education agencies after her office found that several of the collaboratives had misused millions of public dollars.
An audit of the Merrimack Special Education Collaborative, READS Collaborative and the Southeastern Massachusetts Education Collaborative by State Auditor Suzanne Bump revealed patterns of lavish spending and salaries, conflicts of interest and overall systemic problems in standards, oversight and accountability.
The agencies provide educational tools and services for special needs students to 32 school districts across the state, serving about 8,500 students, according to the Office of the State Auditor. The three audited agencies collectively earn $31 million annually.
"The pervasive deficiencies we have seen in this small sampling of the 30 different collaboratives lead us to conclude that this is a broken system," Bump said in a statement Wednesday.
The most egregious agency was the Merrimack Special Education Collaborative, which auditors found to have spent $26.7 million in "inadequately documented and potentially unallowable expenses," according to the auditor's report. By contrast, MSEC's budget for the most recent fiscal year was around $19.8 million.