State education officials Friday said they inadvertently withheld $124,500 in state aid to an Inver Grove Heights charter school.
Tarek ibn Ziyad Academy was supposed to get one of its standard twice-monthly payments from the Minnesota Department of Education on Wednesday, but school spokesman Darin Broton said the direct-deposit slip was zeroed out.
The botched payment is part of a lawsuit filed by TiZA this week against the department over allegations that some of its teachers lack proper licenses. School officials contend the department notified the academy June 1 that the state would withhold $1.4 million in aid and grants as a penalty but would not provide school officials with the documents they needed to defend themselves at an appeals hearing.
They also argued the department improperly took away the $124,500 aid payment before a final determination had been made on the teacher licensure violations. An appeals hearing was held July 7.
TiZA's lawyer, Erick Kaardal, said the department's decision to release the funds Friday is just another example of its "erratic behavior."
"It's just another example of a department that ignores requests, makes accusations without merit and fails to follow the rules it's required to enforce," he said in a statement.
Deputy Education Commissioner Chas Anderson sent a letter to TiZA's executive director Friday and apologized for inadvertently withholding the state aid payment. The letter stated that the money had been wired to the school Friday.
"Nonetheless, it's unfortunate that officials from TiZA have chosen to make comments, including name-calling, which do not reflect what Minnesotans have come to expect from their public schools," department spokesman Randy Wanke said. "The Minnesota Department of Education will continue forward with its obligation to uphold state law through proper legal avenues."
TiZA, founded in 2003, has about 480 students in kindergarten through eighth grade at campuses in Inver Grove Heights and Blaine. The charter school was supposed to receive about $4 million in per-pupil state funding this past school year.