Education

Detroit Public School Official Charged In $1.2 Million Tutoring Scheme

(REUTERS/Shannon Stapleton)

Mary Lou Lang Contributor

Children in the Detroit Public School system were shortchanged out of $1.2 million in tutoring services that never took place, according to the U.S. Attorney’s office.

Carolyn Starkey-Darden, the former director of grant development at DPS, is charged with billing the Detroit Public Schools $1.275 million over seven years for tutoring services never rendered through companies she created, the Detroit Free Press reports.

Court records show she submitted phony documents to the school district, included doctored test scores, forged attendance records and parent signatures.

“I put in some fake scores for a few kids at Denby, just to get their plans approved. When and if we get real ones … just replace what I put in,” Starkey-Darden wrote in a 2008 email to an employee at a tutoring firm owned by her husband. The emails were included in court documents.

“We aren’t saying anything,” Janet Bass, a spokesperson for the Detroit Federation of Teachers, said in an email to The Daily Caller.

“After over 30 years in DPS, nothing surprises me any more,” Ruth Copley, a retired special education teacher at the Detroit Public Schools, wrote in a Facebook message to TheDC. “DPS students come from low-income homes, their parents can’t afford the things parents can in other districts, but I’m not surprised.”

Copley, who retired last year after 30 years with DPS, said students do not sign up for after school programs for many reasons, including lack of transportation home after the program. “So the records get ‘doctored’ in order to make it look like a lot more students were there.”

But $1.2 million could have gone to much needed resources for the low-income children in the district, including supplies for special ed kids.

Copley indicated how her special ed class was denied supplies for years and at times she only received a fraction of what was ordered. “Never in 30 plus years did all the supplies I ordered come in. Sometimes 50 to 60 percent would come in, other times, maybe 25 percent would make it,” she said.

“Bottom line: I didn’t get my supplies, and I bought many things on my own,” Copley said. “I also had two field trips planned, to be paid for by special ed, that I was not allowed to take, but never was told why we cold not go and that money disappeared also.”

The tutoring fraud allegation for Detroit’s struggling schools comes only months after nine principals were charges in a $1 million kickback scheme, according to the Free Press.