Competition: the way a monopoly is dismantled
This week we offer a series of blogs looking at how the traditional public school system in Kentucky – which enjoys a virtual monopoly over deciding where your child can go to school – has been seduced by its own power in arrogant ways that adversely impact students and taxpayers alike. We will show how giving Kentucky parents the competition provided by badly needed school-choice options is the way to curb that monopoly power.
Monopoly attitude in Dayton Schools found in other school systems, too
I wrote yesterday about a former school superintendent’s abuse of power in the Dayton Independent Schools system. That superintendent is going to do federal time in prison for embezzlement.
Another audit indicates this isn’t the only example of misuse of public money and abuse of trust in Kentucky’s public-education system.
Today, we move still further up the Ohio River past Northern Kentucky and on to Mason County, where yet another audit from the Kentucky Auditor of Public Accounts reveals the same monopoly madness discovered in the Dayton schools. Actually, the Mason audit was completed about six months before the Dayton audit was released.
Reminiscent of Dayton, the Kentucky Auditor’s office found significant examples of misappropriation of education dollars.
A few of the disturbing findings in Mason County schools audit include:
• Mason County school board members allowed — and even participated in — excessive meals during in-state and out-of-state trips.
• Expenditures totaling $44,237 were made with no documented business purpose.
• No supporting documentation was provided for over $111,191 of credit card charges and expense reimbursements.
• Supt. Tim Moore overstated trip mileage and received mileage reimbursement for duplicate or conflicting trips.
• Moore and his staff received advance payment for trips contrary to state law, district policies and the superintendent’s employment contract.
• Moore received compensation and benefits in excess of employment contract.
• Moore’s contract was repeatedly extended without documenting contract provisions or referencing the original document.
• The district paid duplicate costs for certain of Moore’s travel-related benefits.
• The district did not report employee fringe benefits until the 2011 calendar year.
• School district employees and board members had reimbursements, credit card charges and direct payments for meals unrelated to overnight travel.
• Meals continued to be charged on school district credit cards even after implementation of a new school-district policy requiring reimbursement on a per-diem basis.
The Mason County situation is particularly disturbing to us at the Bluegrass Institute because we identified the district as one of our “Diamonds in the Rough” in our Bang for the Buck 2012 report. Mason earned that distinction for posting above average ACT scores despite significant student poverty and modest school funding.
Now, it appears that the funding in Mason County was even more modest than we thought due to skimming off the top on the part of adults in charge of the school system. How much better might Mason have performed if the adults in charge had not made off with the kids’ money? Sadly, we’ll never know.
Moore retired almost immediately after the audit came out. But, the story does not end there. On May 23, 2014 the Maysville Ledger Independent announced:
“Former Mason County Schools Superintendent Tim Moore was indicted Friday by a Mason County grand jury, accused of abuse of public trust.”
According to the Ledger Independent, the indictment says:
“A State Auditor audit revealed that, as superintendent of the Mason County School District … Timothy G. Moore, a public servant, during the period of 2007 through 2012, obtained and/or dealt with public monies and/or public property, intentionally failed to make the required payment or disposition, and used them as his own in an amount greater than $10,000 but less than $100,000, thus committing the offense of abuse of public trust.”
So, the story in Mason County remains an on-going situation. Whether or not the superintendent is actually guilty remains a matter for the courts to determine, of course.
However, the audit certainly raises disturbing questions about public school funding in Mason County.
Which brings us back to a more central question: “How do you dismantle a monopoly?” The answer is to create competition.
The obvious need to create competition for the traditional public school monopoly in Kentucky is one of the reasons why the Bluegrass Institute favors more school choice, including the nationally popular option of public charter schools.
School choice: it’s one way an under-performing, monopoly-like public education system experiences real reform and demonstrates real improvement.