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Wednesday, February 13, 2013

Feds want answers from Florida after tutoring dollars go to crooks, cheaters

From the Tampa Times, by Cara Fitzpatrick

Lax oversight of Florida's mandated tutoring program has allowed federal tax dollars to flow into the hands of cheaters and criminals, a Times investigation found. Now federal education officials are asking for an explanation from the state Department of Education.
As first reported today by Education Week's Michele McNeil, the feds called the newspaper's findings "serious and troubling." 
Their concern isn't that surprising. U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan criticized Florida lawmakers last year after they forced school districts to use federal dollars to pay for tutoring - despite having been freed from just such a mandate by the U.S. Department of Education with a waiver from No Child Left Behind. Title 1 dollars are meant to provide extra services to students in poverty.
Duncan even suggested then that state legislators bowed to the pressure of the tutoring industry. The Times found that to be true.
In response to the newspaper's stories, Florida's new Education Commissioner Tony Bennett promised to make improvements. It sounds like he also might be answering some tough questions from the feds. 
Here's the full statement from the U.S. Department of Education, which was provided by spokesman Daren Briscoe:
"The allegations in the Tampa Bay Times story about SES providers are serious and troubling.  Ensuring that states are good stewards of federal taxpayer dollars is one of the foremost responsibilities of the U.S. Department of Education, and there is no excuse for misuse of federal funds intended to support academically struggling students.   The Department has already been in contact with the Florida State Department of Education, and is discussing potential implications with our attorneys."

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