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N.J. funds schools that manage money poorly

Jean Rimbach and Kathleen Carroll of The (Hackensack, N.J.) Record analyzed audits of more than 100 state-funded preschools in New Jersey's poorest communities, reviewed tax returns, financial documents and contracts and interviewed dozens of state and local officials, owners and teachers to show that seven years after New Jersey launched its landmark program for disadvantaged preschoolers — with $561 million budgeted this year alone — the state continues to send tax dollars to programs that have flagrantly misspent or wasted money. The four-month investigation found sloppy bookkeeping at virtually every school, inflated rents, six-figure salaries and $900,000 in personal loans while some schools shortchanged teachers' wages and benefits and uninterrupted funding for schools showing clear financial distress, such as tax liens, negative bank balances, lapsed insurance policies and failure to meet payroll.

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