With a finite — and as far as most Democrats are concerned, insufficient — supply of taxpayer funds out there, its always interesting to see the choices that politicians with the power to spend the money make.
Take Kentucky Attorney General Jack Conway, for example. Yes, that Jack Conway, of ‘Aqua Budda’ fame. Conway has been on the warpath against for-profit colleges, spending hundreds of thousands of dollars of taxpayer funds to mount an investigation against seven academic institutions in the state.
Conway’s investigation recently got a big break. The smoking gun? Owensboro-based Daymar College seems to have overcharged students for textbooks. That’s right; apparently Daymar encouraged students to purchase textbooks in the college bookstore even though they were available more cheaply through other retailers.
For anyone who has been to college this quarter-century, the textbook charges are laughable. Every school, from community colleges all the way up to the ritziest private universities, tries to snooker students into buying their textbooks at the bookstore then they could easily get them for less on Amazon.com.
The real issue is that state officials like Conway are conducting a witch-hunt against for-profit colleges when they should be focusing time and money on rampant fraud within taxpayer-funded public schools.
For-profit colleges are private institutions that students can choose to attend or not to attend.
The same cannot be said for public schools, which are racking up institutionalized cheating scandals faster than investigators can keep up with them.
A few examples: Edison College, a public college in Florida, was recently caught forging transcripts en masse to inflate graduation rates. In Atlanta Public Schools, a massive fraud operation was uncovered that implicated hundreds of teachers in over 40 schools and went right on up to the Superintendent. Atlanta is by no means alone; an increasing number of teachers and administrators across the country have been discovered inflating grades and forging test answers in order to keep bad teachers on the rolls until they could collect their pensions.
None of this is to say that there are never legitimate instances of bad behavior in for-profit schools. In Texas, the Texas Workforce Commission discovered that ATI Enterprises, which owns 16 vocational schools in the state, failed to meet state-mandated career placement standards. The result? All 16 ATI locations had their certification revoked. It’s hard to imagine the entire Atlanta Public School system being shut down, even though by all reports they are guilty of far worse offenses.
It’s not only over-zealous state officials going after for-profit colleges at the taxpayers’ expense. At the federal level, the Department of Education’s proposed ‘gainful employment’ rule would impose burdensome regulations on these institutions, making it increasingly difficult for them to provide educational opportunities to students that need the flexibility they offer.
Bottom line: As long as there is rampant waste, fraud, and abuse in public schools, let’s focus limited taxpayer resources on tackling those institutions that most children have no choice but to attend, and let the private sector take care of itself.