Serve Colorado has completed its review of the Denver Public Schools’ AmeriCorps program and has concluded that the program will be terminated immediately. Serve Colorado found that Denver Public Schools (DPS) did not operate the 2017-18 program in compliance with AmeriCorps grant requirements.
AmeriCorps is a network of national service programs. Members commit their time to address critical community needs like increasing academic achievement and mentoring youth, etc. Members who successfully complete their term of service are eligible for an education award.
The review indicated that Denver Public Schools enrolled paraprofessionals, math fellows, and teacher residents who engaged in efforts that supported math tutoring and student engagement and attendance in AmeriCorps. These were the permitted areas of service under the grant. However, Serve Colorado found that the school district’s enrolling of existing employees resulted in violations of the grant’s requirements regarding supplantation. The investigation also showed instances of duplication and displacement of existing services and existing employees. Serve Colorado has directed DPS to return all costs associated with the program to the Corporation for National and Community Service, the federal agency that administers the AmeriCorps program, totaling $200,000 that the district received to administer the grant. Read the full Serve Colorado report.
Serve Colorado determined that Denver Public Schools’ members were not eligible to receive the education award. Although DPS AmeriCorps members will not receive educational awards from AmeriCorps for the 2017-18 year, the members’ employment with DPS and the salary and benefits they receive as school district employees will not be affected. The district’s teacher residents will also continue to receive the living stipend from Denver Public Schools.
In order to ensure that the DPS employees and teacher residents who were enrolled in the AmeriCorps program receive the tuition and loan assistance that they were promised at the beginning of the year, the school district is committing to reimburse from its general fund budget the same amount that these individuals would have earned with AmeriCorps. There were 485 AmeriCorps members in the program in 2017-18 and the district anticipates that the potential cost of those awards will be from $1-1.8 million in total over the next seven years (depending on how many recipients pursue continued education opportunities and seek reimbursement).
In light of the findings, Denver Public Schools has taken steps to review and improve its procedures and processes related to grants administration and has engaged outside experts in financial systems to advise on improving grant management, audits and oversight. The district is implementing increased levels of grant oversight to ensure there is full compliance with all grants.