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Saturday, July 2, 2011

Florida DOE ignores McKay scholarship corruption

From Scathing Purple Musings

by Bob Sikes

A Miami New Times reporter’s thorough investigation of McKay Scholarship fraud and abuse throughout the state drew a sharp letter of protest from the DOE. Here is a paragraph from Michael D. Kooi’s letter:

It’s also clear that the article’s author is woefully uneducated about the DOE’s oversight as it relates to scholarship-recipient private schools – an understandable byproduct given the fact that he never asked to speak to DOE staff charged with oversight of the McKay program. Had he spoken with them, he would have learned that these schools are required to annually attest to accountability provisions contained in Section 1002.421, Florida Statutes, and failure to do so is an automatic removal from the program for a year. He also would have learned that although site visits to McKay Scholarship schools are limited to three per year, the DOE has developed strong relationships with other agencies such as local health and fire departments as well as state entities such as the Department of Health, Department of Children and Families and Florida Department of Law Enforcement. These relationships provide an additional layer of oversight that is crucial in the absence of a physical DOE presence in each school district.

Kooi seeks to dismiss the article’s evidence with generalities about oversight and intra department cooperation. While he feels he can brush such evidence aside, Senator Steve Wise, who’s committee has oversight over McKay, doesn’t agree.

New Times shared findings from this investigation with state Sen. Stephen R. Wise (R-Jacksonville), one of the co-introducers of the McKay program in 1999. “It’s appalling,” Wise says. “I’m amazed that there’s not more scrutiny about where the money is going.”

“After I get done with you,” he tells a reporter, “I need to talk to my staff director. We need to have some hearings and do whatever we can to make some changes.”

Kooi’s title, Executive Director of Office of Independent Education and Parental Choice, speaks volumes. The existence of such an office ought to send the “pandering to special interests” signal up the flag pole. The term “Choice” has been used far too often by both the left and right for political reasons. I’d recommend to the new ed commissioner drop the last part. The administration of such a worthy scholarship as McKay doesn’t belong in department sullied by partisanship.

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