A year ago, this would have qualified as a scandal.  This month, it’s more of a palate cleanser.  Baltimore schools got millions in federal stimulus money to improve education, as the local CBS affiliate reports, but is that where the money went?  Only if we’re preparing Baltimore schoolkids for beauty school and the Love Boat:

The audit shows federal stimulus, Title I dollars, went to dinner cruises, makeovers and meals and now, state lawmakers and parents want answers from the school district.

The report shows stimulus dollars intended to improve education at Baltimore City Schools didn’t go directly to the classroom. …

The U.S. Department of Education is reviewing expenses from 2009 and 2010 that showed more than $4300 were used on dinner cruises, more than $2400 for PTA meals at a meeting to discuss the budget, $1300 to attend a theater performance and $500 on a mother/daughter makeover.

“We’re talking $15 million out of $112 million, and what we see are school events to engage parents, but when the auditors came to look at it they said, ‘Wait a second. This should have been paid out of general funds, rather than Title I,” said Alonso.

Er, run that by us again?  The school district’s general funds should go to a mother-daughter makeover and dinner cruises?  Perhaps Baltimore needs fewer federal stimulus dollars and a lot more accountability on the uses of local funding in order to improve schools.

Meanwhile, this is hardly a confidence-builder:

“Anytime there’s an audit of Title I dollars, you’re going to see errors at the school level because schools spend money for what they need, and then sometimes they worry about if it fits the parameter of the grant later,” said Baltimore City Schools CEO Andres Alonso.

If audits routinely turn up misuse of stimulus funding, why do we continue to provide it? And if Title I dollars routinely get diverted to dinner cruises and Mommy-daughter makeovers, that’s a good place to turn off the federal spigot and make states accountable for their own schools — as should have been the case all along.