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Check register, credit card audits expose school district's lavish spending despite deficit

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Public education officials across the country claim student achievement will only improve if more tax dollars are spent on their schools, but what happens within a district located in one of the most affluent counties in the country?

Investigators for Education Action Group News uncovered some unexpected answers when they dug into credit card statements and the check register for the Palm Beach County Public Schools (PBCS) in Florida:

"In one short year Palm Beach County school officials spent more than $1 million on cell phones, more than $685,000 on hotels around the nation, more than $335,000 on air travel, more than $100,000 on pizza, more than $94,000 on some unknown product purchased from a frozen beverage company, and more than $93,000 on charter tour buses,' EAGN said in a report published today.

"And those are just the most significant totals in this sickening spending spree. More than $66,000 was spent on water park tickets, in a state where there's no shortage of beaches or water. More than $25,000 was spent on movie theater tickets, in an era when most movies can be rented for a buck or two at the neighborhood Red Box," the group said.

The Michigan-based group consists of journalists and researchers who focus on education news and analysis. They decided to look at the Florida district because of its affluence and the fact that it has a $50 million annual operating deficit.

Despite that deficit, though, PBCS officials did a lot of traveling, all over America, according to EAGN's investigators. They found 1,585 credit card charges totalling nearly $700,000 just for hotels during the period from July 1, 2011, and June 30, 2012.

"There were 44 credit card charges at the Fountainbleau Resort (there are several around the nation - we're not sure which one) between July 13-22, 2010, totaling $15,663," the EAGN report said.

"There were nine charges at Residence Inn New York Times Square between July 5-10, 2010, totaling $12,710.There were 15 charges at the Lucerne Hotel in New York City between July 5-10, 2010, for a total of $23,570.There were 26 charges at the Fairmont Hotel in San Jose, California on Feb. 4, 2011 for a total of $9,433. And there were seven charges - again at the Lucerne Hotel in New York - between Feb. 14-16, 2011, for a total of $10,796," the report continued.

One charge stood out, however, a July 30, 2010, billing for $81,035 at the Marriott Orlando.

School district officials declined to discuss the charges, EAGN said. For more on the EAGN report, go here.

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