Seattle Public Schools might have to pay back as much as $168,228 in federal funds for once again over-reporting the number of students eligible for a Indian Education program grant, according to a report (.pdf) released by state auditors today.

The audit found that the district's 2009-2010 grant application claimed 1,100 eligible students and received $229,596, or approximately $208 per eligible student. But only 294 students were actually eligible. The State Auditor's Office is questioning costs for the remaining 806 students for whom the district could not provide enrollment records and eligibility forms.

Further, the district was also unable to show that the majority of members on the program's parent committee had eligible Indian students in the district or that its one student member was eligible.

This is the second time the district has been non-compliant about meeting the eligibility criteria for the grants. In its 2008-2009 audit, the SAO reported the district's non-compliance with federal eligibility requirements and questioned costs of $153,703 which the district returned to the Office of Indian Education. The district also notified the office that the 2009-2010 grant application also over-reported the total number of eligible students. Although the "district attempted to refund the 2009-2010 ineligible amount, the refund calculation was based on inaccurate eligible count," according to the audit report.

SPS spokesperson Teresa Wippel says that "because of the nature of these audits (being done a year ahead of the findings), the issues that are identified are from a year ago and have since been resolved."

SAO spokesperson Mindy Chambers says that the district has "responded very well and is taking steps to correct the non-compliance," "There is a new program manager in place and a new process to ensure student eligibility," she says. District staff now review each form for completion, validation, and verification of attendance.

The Indian Education grant is meant to help schools address education and culturally-related academic needs of Indian students who need assistance to meet state academic standards. Districts receive money based on the number of eligible students.