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The Learning Curve: The Basics on Southern California’s $50 Million Charter School Scam

District Attorney Summer Stephan / Photo by Megan Wood

Astounding details have emerged of an alleged charter school scam that netted some $50 million in taxpayer money by falsely enrolling thousands of students in summer school, according to an indictment [1] obtained by the Union-Tribune.

The scheme focused on enrolling student athletes into summer credit recovery programs. The students didn’t take any classes, but the owners of A3 Education still got money from the state on their behalf. A3 operates more than a dozen online charter schools, three in San Diego County. One of the company’s owners is likely on the run in Australia [2], said District Attorney Summer Stephan, according to the U-T.

The owners, Sean McManus and Jason Schrock, pushed employees to falsely enroll as many students as possible, prosecutors allege. Those employees then earned bonuses for hitting certain benchmarks, according to the indictment.

On top of the explosive allegations, the indictment also contains some juicy details.

One employee texted another about a dream she had: “You were running around my office, drinking champagne, throwing money everywhere, yelling ‘I love bonuses,’” the indictment reads.

Dem Presidential Candidates Court Teacher’s Unions

“Any country that out-educates us, will out-compete us,” former Vice President Joe Biden told members of the American Federation of Teachers [3] at a town hall event in Houston Tuesday night, quoting his wife Jill Biden.

Biden went on to say that many counties are out-educating the United States currently, but he laid out a plan for how he would raise up the teaching profession and education in the poorest parts of the country.

Biden joined many other candidates in the crowded field for the Democratic presidential nomination who have released major education proposals as the nation’s two largest teacher’s unions begin deciding who to endorse [4], reports U.S. News and World Report.

This was Biden’s first major policy proposal, which bodes well for people like me who would love to see education become a serious part of the 2020 presidential race.

Biden’s plan would triple Title I money, which the federal government provides to poorer schools and school districts. It would also raise teacher pay and significantly increase the number of school nurses and counselors [5], according to Education Week.

Sen. Bernie Sander’s plan similarly triples Title I funding, but also makes significant pledges around charter schools, which Biden’s plan does not. Sander’s plan would put a moratorium on new federal funding for charter schools and ban for-profit charter schools, as California recently did.

Sen. Elizabeth Warren also has a flashy plan. Hers would eliminate student debt for 95 percent of borrowers and create universal childcare and pre-kindergarten, according to U.S. News and World Report. (Free pre-k is part of the plan for several contenders in the Democratic field.) Like Sanders, her plan would also make public colleges tuition-free. The part teacher’s unions might like best? Warren said she would make sure her secretary of education is a former public school teacher.

Then, of course, there is Sen. Kamala Harris, who came out with her big education proposal first. I previously wrote about her big plan to give all teachers $10,000 per year [6] and more in some places where teacher pay is lowest.

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