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Ghost Students: Utah State Office of Education finds some schools getting paid for students that were never officially enrolled

SALT LAKE CITY (ABC 4 Utah) - Utah schools getting paid by the state for students that have never shown up in class. That's the finding of a recent internal audit by the Utah State Office of Education.

SALT LAKE CITY (ABC 4 Utah) - Utah schools getting paid by the state for students that have never shown up in class. That's the finding of a recent internal audit by the Utah State Office of Education.

For year's public schools, in part, have been paid on a per pupil basis; the fuller the attendance sheet, the more funding the school receives. But with the emergence of online distance education programs, the idea of a traditional roll call is a bit outdated.

The Utah State Office of Education got word that there were some local charter schools who were contracting with online education programs to find and enroll students who then may or may not have actually attended the school.

USOE Spokesperson Mark Peterson told ABC 4 Utah, "It appears that we have nine charter schools and one district who were not being prudent with the money they were being given for the distance education programs."

Senator Deidre Henderson, who sits on a charter school board herself, couldn't believe it when she heard it.

"Most of the time, according to the audit, these students never ever set foot in the charter school. They were never really a student at the charter school," said Sen. Henderson. "All of the educational responsibilities for their students was outsourced, there was no monitoring of student outcomes, achievements, attendance anything like that."

Sen. Henderson says the schools were enrolling students to up their attendance and fleece the state of millions of dollars in education funding.

"Just that small handful of schools drove down over $10.5 million,” said Sen. Henderson.

USOE says those nine charter schools and one school district have now been placed on warning.

Peterson said, "All that means is they need to work with state charter school board and the state office of education to make sure everything is running in compliance with state law and board rule. If that's all done, great, if not then they could be placed on probation status."

The audit has now moved on to the state auditor’s office as the USOE continues to investigate.

Sen. Henderson says she's opened a bill file in order to create legislation to ensure this never happens again.

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