Free lunch fraud a 'systemic' problem at Chicago Public Schools

July 13, 2012

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Chicago Public Schools is removing 12 principals and assistant principals today, pending due process hearings, after the CPS Inspector General found the employees falsified free lunch forms for their own children. 

But the problem isn’t about saving money on lunch.

Every year, schools get hundreds of millions of dollars from state and federal governments based on the number of kids who qualify for free lunch--the federal measure of poverty in schools.

In some Chicago schools, the poverty rate could be inflated.

"People admitted to us that they falsified the forms to ensure that the schools their kids attended were better funded," said CPS Inspector General Jim Sullivan.

Neither district officials, nor Sullivan’s office, are revealing the names of employees or schools involved  in the ongoing investigation.

But Sullivan says the problem is "systemic"—55 employees and more than 50 schools have been identified in the investigation so far.

A CPS spokeswoman says early next school year, the district plans to implement a verification system for free lunch forms that would cross check them with employee salary information.