It looks like Florida is about to learn that with it's education system. Rick Scott is no stranger to fraud. He ran Columbia/HCA which pleaded guilty in 2003 to massive Medicare fraud and paid a $2 billion fine. He was charged himself but claimed he knew nothing about systemic and rampant fraud in the company he ran. Scott claimed he knew nothing of the fraud, yea right. He was forced to and had to endure the pain of a severance settlement of just under $10 million and walked away with $350 million i stock. Another company that he still owns was also accused of Medicare fraud. He privately settled the fraud case days before he entered the Gubernatorial race.
He's announced a radical agenda for Florida's school system that will reduce property taxes and hand out $5,500 worth of vouchers for every child no matter what the financial status of the family. It's designed to severely damage if not destroy the public school system, a favorite target of the right. It will also open the door to rampant fraud, which is something Scott seems to have no problem with.
One of the hallmarks of Scott's education reform plan is the idea that many kids don't need to go to school at all; they can learn everything they need to in virtual classrooms. Online schools offer many cost-saving advantages, but unfortunately many of them are so bad that even the military won't take people who graduate from them. Online schools also seem even more vulnerable to fraud than regular old charter schools.
In June, Bush spoke at a graduation ceremony at Electronic Classroom for Tomorrow, Ohio's largest online school, which enrolls nearly 10,000 kids but only graduates 35 percent of them. ECOT didn't get off to a stellar start, demonstrating some of the pitfalls of such schools. In its early years, the management company running the school overcharged the state $1.7 million in teaching hours it couldn't document, as well as $500,000 in computer equipment that disappeared with students who never came back.
Scott's education "reform" plan seems be less about actually making Florida's schools better and more about paying private companies to run bad ones. On his transition team are a couple of CEOs of for-profit charter school companies with questionable track records, including the head of Imagine Schools, which runs underperforming charter schools in Ohio, Arizona, and Florida. Five of the 11 schools the company runs in Ohio are on an academic emergency list and another three are on an academic watch list. The Imagine School in Florida is on probation for its second consecutive "F" rating and at risk of being closed by the state. Charter schools figure prominently into Scott's reform plans.
These are the sorts of schools that would likely be on the receiving end of Scott's universal voucher program. It might help him cut property taxes for the state's rich seniors and wintering hedge fund managers, but it's hard to see how the plan does much to improve "accountability" as he's claimed—or more importantly, improve the fortunes of Florida's school children.
One has to assume there will be minimal oversight of the system and there is little doubt that the children of Florida and their parents will ultimately pay the price of this experiment in privatization.
Mother Jones has the full story.