Monday, May 20, 2013

Scam and scandal in the Course Choice fraud

A motivational speaker without education credentials is paid $145,000 per year to coordinate a "Course Choice" program that will drain millions of dollars from public schools in Louisiana.

He only works four days a week at the State Department of Education because he commutes to Louisiana from his home in Los Angeles.

And the program he runs is already mired in scandal.

This is the state of public education in the age of Gov. Bobby Jindal and Superintendent of Education John White.

EdLog has already introduced readers to Dave "Lefty" Lefkowith, the erstwhile motivational speaker, associate of former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush and purveyor schemes to deregulate energy and manipulate water rights in Florida.

Lefty is the star of this article by Advocate reporter Will Sentell, who writes that Lefkowith leapfrogged from a $35,000 contract to the $145,000 position as Assistant Superintendent of Portfolio (whatever that means).

All without having to move from sunny California to muggy Louisiana.

Now we're starting to learn more about the course choices that seem to beg for a criminal investigation.
As Gannett journalists Mary Nash-Wood and Vickie Welborn report here, students in Northwest Louisiana are being registered for the courses without their knowledge.

The company that seems to be improperly registering students without permission is called FastPath, and it stands to make between $700 and $1,275 for each student enrolled in a course. Company officials declined to be interviewed for the article.

We know that FastPath recruiters cut a swath through low-income areas of Caddo and Webster Parishes, promising tablet devices to prospective students, including profoundly disabled children who may not have the ability to use the devices.

"Neither students nor their parents are responsible for the tablet devices if they are lost or stolen," according to the Gannett article. "And they can keep them even if they don’t pass the course."

And who are the education experts trolling for Course Choice students?

FastPath's want ad on Craig's List for "student enrollment specialists" says they have to be 18 years or older, have no criminal record, and have automobile insurance.

"By conducting community outreach through program marketing," the ad says, "this position will promote parental choice in education and the FastPath Learning program. The duties of this position are primarily focused on marketing the program and enrolling students in the program using a mobile device, such as a netbook, notepad, or internet enabled smart phone."

The pay is $16 per hour.

Thanks to indispensable journalist Tom Aswell, we know a lot more about FastPath.

The chairman of the FastPath board is former U.S. Secretary of Education Rod Paige, who served under President George W. Bush.

Paige was appointed secretary largely because of the"Houston Miracle," his vaunted success as superintendent of the Houston Independent School District. Which turned out to be a fraud, because HSID  falsified its dropout statistics during Paige's tenure.

Jindal. White. Lefkowith. Paige. These are just a few of the names that will go down in infamy for the scam they are perpetrating on the taxpayers and school children of Louisiana.

The State Supreme Court has ruled that Jindal,White et al cannot use Minimum Foundation Program funds to pay for the Course Choice scam. The legislature now has an opportunity to cancel Course Choice before even more damage can be done.

Question is, will lawmakers have the courage to do the right thing?

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