The independent agency that investigates Chicago Public Schools has criticized the district's "widespread" use of gift cards, saying the system is "wasteful" and has led to a number of thefts, according to the watchdog's annual report.

One investigation found that five CPS employees had spent a total of about $5,500 using school-purchased gift cards for services that included: car detailing at a local BMW dealership; dinner at a downtown steakhouse; and layaway payments at Kmart.

Between January 2013 and December 2016, CPS schools, network offices and central office departments spent about $250,000 to buy 7,462 gift cards, according to the report. The cards were often bought as incentives for good student performance or attendance.

The report describes the purchase of the cards as wasteful, noting that they come at a high cost.

For the full story, click here.