Tablet Opinion

Editorial: Students are losers in tutoring fraud scandal

There are two reasons to be upset by the case involving two individuals who pleaded guilty Wednesday to defrauding the Dallas and Fort Worth school districts out of roughly $2.5 million in federal funds.

The first is obvious.

According to the U.S. Attorney’s Office, for more than two years, Flori Mati, aka “Florine Shaw,” a former DISD teacher, and David Mbugua billed DISD and FWISD for services their four businesses — Wise Links LLC; Diverse Links Inc.; Boost Academy and Avenue Academy — never provided.

They were hired by the districts to tutor eligible students free of charge, using federal grants distributed to states under No Child Left Behind.

During the 2011-2012 and 2012-2013 school years, they billed DISD more than $2.7 million and were paid more than $1.5 million; and billed FWISD more than $1.4 million and were paid more than $1 million.

But federal authorities determined that around 75 percent of the total amount they sought from the districts was for tutoring that never occurred.

It’s bad enough that Mati and Mbugua cheated taxpayers and swindled school officials into paying for a program that was essentially a financial black hole.

The real tragedy however, is that thousands of students who needed and were entitled to academic assistance under a well-intended law never got the help they deserved.

Both DISD and FWISD have high levels of economically disadvantaged and at-risk students, many of whom would benefit from the extra academic assistance.

But according to the government, Mati and Mbugua were more interested in enriching themselves than in helping their students, going door to door with gifts to encourage students to enroll, then persuading them to sign attendance logs for tutoring sessions they never received.

In pleading gulity, Mati and Mbugua are each subject to a penalty of up to five years in federal prison, a $250,000 fine and restitution.

The cost of their fraud to the students cannot be quantified.

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