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News >  Idaho

Program Swamps Agency Fingerprint Processing Clogs Department Of Education

Associated Press

A controversial fingerprinting program aimed at getting background checks on school employees has turned into a bookkeeping nightmare.

A glut of $40 checks for a new program requiring many teachers and other public school employees to be fingerprinted resulted in the Idaho Department of Education not depositing all its receipts promptly.

Teachers and other employees must pay $40 to have their fingerprints processed. So far, the program has turned up little in the way of criminal backgrounds among active teachers.

When the fingerprinting program began on July 1, 1996, so background checks could be conducted on school employees hired since 1991, “our agency was not prepared for the volume of deposits and the resulting increase in the workload, with no increase in employees who could help with the program,” state School Superintendent Anne Fox said.

Education Department spokeswoman Rhonda Edmiston said Friday that 26,248 sets of fingerprints - about half for teachers and the rest for secretaries, clerks, janitors and other school employees - have been submitted to the agency, along with money to cover the cost of each background check.

Fox made her comments in response to a recommendation from legislative auditors that the Education Department comply with state law by making daily deposits any time it receives $200 or more.

“We observed several instances where checks totaling in excess of $200 were not deposited the next day,” the auditors wrote in a summary of their findings. “In another instance, checks totaling over $11,600 were held for several months before being deposited.”

Fox wrote in a letter to Ray Ineck, managing auditor for the Legislative Services Office, that besides the fingerprinting program crunch, the agency’s commodity program for school lunches had been holding checks it received if they were for incorrect amounts or if they could not be matched with invoices.

“In both programs, we immediately began depositing all checks the same day, as well as using suspense accounts for questionable deposits, thereby adhering to Idaho Code,” she wrote. “We will never have the volume of deposits in the fingerprinting program again, so we should not have to revisit that issue.”

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