More than two decades of failed oversight have allowed the state's special education collaboratives to misspend millions of taxpayer dollars, according to the state auditor's office, which has found a pattern of excessive salaries, conflicts of interest, and possible pension law violations at six of the 30 publicly funded agencies, reports the Boston Globe. Auditor Suzanne M. Bump said the laws and policies for state oversight of the special education agencies are badly outdated, clouding the state's authority over them.
The state Department of Elementary and Secondary Education has not revised its policy governing the collaboratives since 1988, while the state law allowing cities and towns to create them is more than 30 years old. The latest audits focus on two southern Massachusetts collaboratives, the READS Collaborative and the Southeastern Massachusetts Educational Collaborative, where Bump found multiple instances of financial mismanagement. Earlier this month, Bump released an audit of the Merrimack Special Education Collaborative, finding that the former executive director and other officials may have misspent more than $30 million on salaries, inflated rents alcohol, and luxuries such as country club outings.