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Privatization’s Track Record in NY

December 29, 2012

Privatization of public education has already occurred in pre-school special education in New York…. and the results are not pretty. The title of an editorial in the Christmas day edition of the NYTimes says it all: “Fraud in Pre-School Education”. The article recounts how private pre-school operators “…stole or misspent millions of dollars, piled relatives onto the payroll, billed for no-show jobs and charged for special education services that were never provided.” And where was the State Department of Education while all of this was taking place? A recently released audit reports:

“there has been no fiscal audit oversight” of the special education service providers since 2007 and that the department, which is understaffed, has no systematic way of reviewing the hundreds of millions of dollars in charges submitted every year by the contractors. Reviews are generally cursory and almost always based on information supplied by the providers themselves.

The understaffed department is offering some recommendations… but those recommendations will require action by the legislature and, in all probability, money for regulatory oversight. Based on Albany’s record in the past and the Governor’s inclination to support privatization I don’t expect it to happen any time soon. The closing sentence of the editorial, though, does indicate that the Times editors may be having second thoughts about the virtues of privatization:

Ideally, Albany will eventually move away from the privatized system to one administered by the public schools, but interim reforms are necessary.

And ideally, the Times editors will no longer advocate moving toward privatization of public schools without the kinds of safeguards that prevent the fraudulent spending that is occurring in privatized special education pre schools.

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