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Arne Duncan, federal education secretary, concedes that federally subsidized tutoring programs are academically ineffective. But according to a recent report the programs are also riddled with waste and fraud.
Supplemental Educational Services (SES) traces back to Title 1, a 1965 federal program intending to improve academic achievement, and which now amounts to $14 billion. The federally funded tutoring mandate awards about $1,500 to students at low-performing schools. Between 2007 and 2011 the federal government spent $3.45 billion on the tutoring programs. Many states have eliminated subsidized tutoring by obtaining waivers from the federal No Child Left Behind program, but some states continue participation. In Florida, $7 million went to tutoring companies operated by people with criminal records and multiple fraudulent charges have been uncovered in Texas.
In California 300 companies provide SES services. The state Department of Education claims it lacks the resources to monitor them. School districts can disqualify an approved SES provider for contractual lapses, but not for academic reasons. So even with poor performance, the taxpayer dollars still flow.
“This system wasn’t designed in a way that it could succeed. It was designed to fail.” That is the view of S.K. Tilton, author of SES Finally Made Easy: How to Make Money with an Afterschool Tutoring Business. How’s that for an endorsement. Of course, SES isn’t the only failing federal education program.
Federal student financial assistance programs are costly, inefficient, and fail to serve their desired objectives. Fraud is rife and many students fail to graduate and carry heavy debt into their forties. The U.S. Department of Education’s enforcement division conducts armed raids in search of fraud and criminal activity involving federal education funds. Something is wrong with this picture.
Education is the responsibility of the states, not the federal government. The federal Department of Education has only existed since 1980 and was a payoff to the National Education Association, the teacher cartel that endorsed Jimmy Carter for president in 1978. The Department, now with a budget of $71 billion, up 4.5 percent from last year, aims to promote student achievement. But by the eighth grade American students trail students from Canada on international tests, even though that country has no federal education department. Even so, the United States continues to follow a policy of No Bureaucracy Left Behind.