An auditing firm hired by the Dallas Independent School district says it has uncovered falsified documents linked to significant fraud through tutoring services. KERA’s Bill Zeeble reports hundreds of students who needed help may never have received it.
Weaver and Tidwell did a forensic audit of the federally funded Supplemental Education Services Program. It pays $80 to $120 an hour for tutoring, and funds for DISD are administered by the Texas Education Agency.
The firm’s Bill Brown says at least two Miami, Florida-based tutoring providers - Cool Kids Inc. and Next Level Education - acted so suspiciously that their invoices look fraudulent.
Brown: We found there were a number of tutoring sessions that were provided and billed to this district that were after the point in time that the tutor said they had quit working for the providers.
Brown says there were 333 claims like this worth $41,000. He told trustees there’s more.
Brown: We showed a tutor an attendance-and-payment record and they reviewed every signature on that that and said that is my signature or that is not my signature, or more importantly, I didn’t authorize anyone to sign on my behalf. And that would be an indication we have a forgery.
Brown says 862 claims of possible forged invoices totaled about $97,000.
One principal said tutoring services are supposed to work with teachers to determine which students need help, but of thirty providers, only one actually did so. He said some just went door to door soliciting business with no input from teachers. Thomas Jefferson high school principal Eddie Conger said about 81 of his students receive federally funded tutoring but he cannot verify most of what’s done, because a lot of it’s off campus.
Eddie Conger, Principal, Thomas Jefferson High School: That’s about $120,000 for 81 kids to get 21 hours of tutoring. If we could have that $120,000, that would provide me with two teachers, a math teacher and an English teacher that could serve probably 280 students.
Trustee Nancy Bingham was livid, saying there’s no accountability.
Bingham: We’re paying them about $119/hour per student. We really don’t know what they’re doing. And it’s not our money, we’re not doing it. The parents are thinking their kids are getting a lot of help and we really don’t know. They could be sitting there playing a card game.
Interim Superintendent Alan King called this tutoring set-up a racket the district has been working to get under control. The audit firm says DISD should demand repayment of the money spent. It also suggested the District Attorney should investigate possible legal action.
In all, the audit firm says tutor firms may have scammed at least $143,500 for fraudulent services.