Azteca Head Start has filed an appeal with the federal Administration of Children and Families in the hope of overturning a local decision to strip it of $3 million in federal funds.
Azteca also requested a hearing from the administration, a branch of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, and expects to receive an answer this month, director Rosanne Ghiazza said.
Azteca took the actions after the county Office of Education refused to reverse its decision to withhold the funding for the next fiscal year.
The funding was ordered withheld after the county Board of Education determined that Azteca, an Alhambra-based organization that operates Head Start schools in East Los Angeles, Alhambra, Maywood, Cudahy and Montebello, was "high risk" and plagued by financial and management problems over the past several years, according to a statement from Andrew Kennedy, senior project director for Head Start programs with the county.
Azteca, with about 700 students, is one of 27 agencies that contracts with the county to operate the Head Start programs.
In making its decision, the county cited a dispute between Azteca and parents of disabled children who filed a lawsuit after Azteca refused to enroll their children. In 1990, Azteca was ordered to return $76,000 in allegedly mismanaged funds, including money used for unauthorized air fares and checks made out to cash, according to a county spokesman.
But Ghiazza has disputed the county's findings and said the agency has "repaid the entire amount due for invoiced disallowed costs. The final payment, which included interest, was made in June, 1992."
The county, which also withheld funding from the Latin American Civic Assn. Head Start, based in San Fernando, said it will either assign some of the schools to other contracted agencies or find a replacement for Azteca if the federal agency upholds its decision.