Fla. Voucher Program Subsidizes Corruption, News Account Says

A Florida law that allows students with physical and learning disabilities to attend private schools at government expense is rife with fraud and abuse, a newspaper has reported.

Miami New Times examined a number of private schools that are living off taxpayer funds thanks to the John M. McKay Scholarships for Students With Disabilities Program. Although the program makes funding available, it doesn’t provide any significant oversight. The result is rampant fraud.

As New Times put it, “There is no accreditation requirement for McKay schools. And without curriculum regulations, the DOE can’t yank back its money if students are discovered to be spending their days filling out workbooks, watching B-movies, or frolicking in the park. In one ‘business management’ class, students shook cans for coins on street corners.”

Other abuses the paper uncovered include:

• South Florida Preparatory Christian Academy in Oakland Park: The school’s 200 students moved from one dingy location to another before a fire marshal declared one building “unfit” for use. Some classes were held in public parks. Textbooks were scarce, and the music teacher noted that there were no instruments in the school.

• Hope Academy in Homestead: Three staff members were found to have criminal records, two for drug offenses. A woman is suing the school, saying officials did nothing after her disabled daughter was molested by a classmate.

• Muskateer’s (sic) Academy in Hialeah: The couple who founded the school was indicted for stealing information about students from other schools, claiming they were enrolled in their school and pocketing the tuition money. Sentenced to probation, they have reportedly fled the state.

• Faith Christian Academy, Polk County: The sisters who founded the school were accused of bilking the state of $200,000 through false enrollments. They were convicted and sent to prison.

• Academic High, Boca Raton: The school’s curriculum consists of having students fill out workbooks every day for five and a half hours.