APS backtracks, saying employee error led to nearly 60 teachers not being paid on time

ATLANTA — Atlanta school officials now admit an employee mistake caused the delay of more than $200,000 in teacher paychecks in a summer tutoring program.

A week ago, Atlanta Public Schools was adamant that teachers not getting paid was the fault of the nonprofit agency overseeing the summer program -- not APS.

Turns out that was not the case.

“This is a black and white situation -- no gray area. You’re supposed to pay people on time,” teacher Ronni Amos said.

“You know we want to get back, continue with the rest of our summer and get, you know, some money to pay for our bills,” teacher Julius Richard said.

When Channel 2 investigative reporter Richard Belcher interviewed Amos and Richards a week ago, their concern was paying bills.

At the time, their paychecks were a week late, and it was unclear when they would get paid.

Their employer in the summer program aimed at elementary age students was a nonprofit called Artportunity.

Artportunity emailed the 50 or 60 teachers involved, blaming APS and an unnamed state agency.

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The school district fired back, saying “APS is not responsible for a vendor’s inability to maintain its commitment to paying its employees on time.”

But now, Belcher has learned that the very same day APS was blaming Artportunity, the school district was sending Artportunity $205,000 it should’ve sent earlier.

It was employee error, the district now says.

Belcher did some digging and determined that unnamed state agency was the Georgia Department of Education, which has paid Artportunity $227,000 this year but told the nonprofit its final payment of $75,000 was coming after June 30.

The DOE emailed Channel 2 Action News saying, “there are no issues on our end that would add to (Artportunity Knocks) missing payroll.”

“We’re glad to finally get paid -- actually just yesterday,” Richards said.

Richards and Amos told Belcher that people on tight budgets shouldn’t have to wait nearly two weeks for a promised paycheck.

“Most people they allocate where they want their money to go, when they already know that they’re going to get paid after they’ve been working, so, it definitely was missed,” Amos said.

But now...

“I think you could say this adventure is over and we could move on,” Richards said.

In the statement acknowledging its error, APS praised Artportunity for helping students in science, technology and math.

The nonprofit’s CEO, Chris Woods, said in an email: “In the organization’s 15-year history, program staff has never had a delayed paycheck. It’s unfortunate this story has overshadowed our good work, which is what really needs to be highlighted.”

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