Friday, April 12, 2013

Special ed programs : Poor government supervision = Fraud, greed and incompetence

NY Times   But his success until then underscores how private contractors have taken advantage of this generously financed but poorly regulated segment of the special-education system, often called special ed pre-K, according to an investigation by The Times. 

At Mr. Park’s company, the costs to treat these 3- and 4-year-olds were enormous. The government routinely spent more than $50,000 in a single year on services for one child, according to an analysis of billing records. 

In all, that occurred 281 times from 2005 to 2012, the records show. 

The money went to Mr. Park’s company, Bilingual SEIT, and other providers of related services, including contractors that transported children to his schools. 

In the 2011-12 school year, Bilingual SEIT billed more than $17 million to the city and state, up from $725,000 it had billed a decade earlier.[...]

Yet The Times found that a network of contractors has arisen that routinely bill for questionable services. 

The Times’s investigation drew on interviews with more than 50 former workers at Mr. Park’s company, including teachers, therapists, administrators and clerks. Parents, city and state education officials, state auditors, and executives and workers at other contractors in the industry were also interviewed. 

Billing fraud appears to be common. Some contractors labeled overseas vacations and spa trips as business travel, or used corporate credit cards for jewelry or groceries. Others hired relatives for no-show jobs, or gave themselves exorbitant salaries and perks like fancy cars, even as they seldom showed up for work. One contractor put a grown son on the West Coast on the payroll, claiming he had opened a satellite office there. Another contractor lived out of state herself. 

The bar to entry was low. One preschool contractor had a previous career in Medicare fraud, federal records showed. Another was convicted of weapon possession and workers’ compensation fraud.
State and city education officials said The Times’s findings were troubling.[...]

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