Fraud at Our DC Public Schools

The news as reported in the Washington Post today is enough to make a DC resident sick. Parents are apparently sending kids to our Duke Ellington High School who do not even live in the District and not paying for that privilege!

To be clear there are apparently many parents who do this legally by paying money to DC for the education at the School. Nobody should have a problem with a parent seeking out the best education they can get for their child. It is also a source of pride that the best education in the area for many students is from a sought out local high school.

Yet, people who do not live in the District at all now think its acceptable to send their kids to our school for free?

An investigation by District officials has uncovered signs of widespread enrollment fraud at the Duke Ellington School of the Arts, a nationally recognized incubator of theatrical talent and one of the city’s most revered public schools, according to current and former D.C. government officials with knowledge of the probe.

Apparently, the initial probe which discovered the problem was put on a “slow track” by a lawyer in the state superintendent’s office. The lawyer apparently:

…told those handling the case in that office to slow-track it because of the risk of negative publicity during a mayoral election year, said the officials with knowledge of the probe.

Well let’s change gears now and put it on a fast track please.

The cost to attend Duke Ellington legitimately if living outside of the District is $12,000, which is a bargain compared to many private schools anyway.

Guess what? The District has its own False Claims Act. You can look it up. D.C. Code §§2-381.01 et seq. It is one of the better State False Claims Acts.

Note to DC counsel’s office the law includes liability for when a person:

(6) Knowingly makes, uses, or causes to be made or used, a false record or statement material to an obligation to pay or transmit money or property to the District, or knowingly conceals or knowingly and improperly avoids or decreases an obligation to pay or transmit money or property to the District;
See § 2-381.02.(a)(6)

This is as clear an obligation as there is for what is called a reverse false claim.

Normally filling against a bunch of individuals ripping off the state for (relatively) smaller amounts of money is a difficult logistical matter and does not usually involve enough damages for a private whistleblower to pursue.

Yes, I know also these allegations have also been publically disclosed.

It is no problem, however, for the District itself to use this law — simply list everybody and demand treble damages for the lost tuition. Civil fines too, maybe? The public disclosure bar does not apply to the District if it files the case and it can pretty easily gather the evidence.

$36,000 is probably still less than what one of the fancy private schools in the area charges for High School, so let’s not hear any whining for those who went out of their way to cheat my school district out of $12,000 they could have paid up front.

We should note that many parents, in fact did it the right way and paid to have their kids attend a school, which is apparently better than schools where they live.

I don’t want to hear anyone running down living in my beloved DC again either. Not when people from out of town lie, cheat, and steal to send their kids to our schools.

Hey, DC, use the law and get our tuition back and add a couple new teachers to Ellington with the money!