n a three-month investigation, the Tampa Bay Times examined invoice records from 59 school districts, conducted dozens of interviews and reviewed thousands of pages of complaint reports, audits and other documents, and found:
• Florida school districts paid at least $7 million last year to tutoring companies run by people with criminal records. Among those who have headed state-approved tutoring firms are a rapist, thieves and drug users.
• In more than 40 cases across the state, tutoring companies have faked student sign-up sheets or billed for tutoring that never happened. Companies that overcharged for tutoring earned $7 million last year alone.
• The program is riddled with conflicts of interest. In one county last year, more than 100 teachers moonlighted as tutors of their own students, flouting state ethics rules by positioning themselves to steer kids toward their secondary employers. Parents have billed for tutoring their own children and the head of a small North Florida school system ran a tutoring company that did business with neighboring school districts.
• Dozens of tutoring firms have broken federal rules by luring impoverished kids to sign up with promises of bicycles, gift cards and computers. Others have sent school administrators on golf outings or sponsored retreats for district officials who administer tutoring contracts.
Despite uncovering millions of dollars in potential fraud and documenting flagrant violations, school districts almost never forward cases to law enforcement.
It's disqualifying to work with children if you have any kind of criminal record.
Unless you are in Florida, of course.