Wednesday, October 17, 2007

Floridians convicted of voucher fraud TODAY

Utahns are still deciding how to cast their ballots on Referendum 1.

One thing to consider is the potential for fraud as new schools pop up and people see an opportunity to make money. Keep in mind that the Utah law lacks significant financial or academic accountability. So, the potential for abuse and fraud is very real.

Fraud and abuse has been well documented in voucher programs in Cleveland, Milwaukee, and Florida. (See here.)

Just today, the Lakeland (FL) Ledger reported on a jury verdict that found two sisters guilty of embezzling more than $200,000. Here's a look:

"More specifically, the state contended that, in the summer of 2003, Mitchell purchased a used 2003 Hummer H2 with $35,000 in cash that was taken from state scholarship funds. Prosecutors also told the jury that her sister, Jeannette Nealy, also bought a car using voucher funds. They swindled about $200,000 from state and federal programs, prosecutors said."

And, the article continued:

"Had it not been for some alert local officials and investigators trained in financial crimes, the money shuffling might have gone undetected and unpunished. At the time, the state of Florida was providing little oversight for the way money was dispensed from Florida's three voucher programs."

Further, it noted:

"Just months before, a bill that would have provided more accountability in the state's voucher programs died when the Florida Legislature's session ended April 30. Then-Senate President Jim King warned that the lack of greater oversight had created "a disaster waiting to happen."

And, Senate President King was a co-sponsor of the original voucher bill.
He clearly had second thoughts.

You can read the full story here.

Hmmm. The Florida law (since struck down as unconstitutional) was just like Utah's in that it had little oversight and virtually no accountability for voucher schools.

Today's story holds a good lesson.

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