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Pocketing profits from students' labor

By Alan Maass | April 30, 2004 | Page 2

A CHARTER school in Pensacola, Fla., has been charged with fraud for hiring out students with behavioral or academic problems to work on state road crews.

According to prosecutor Russell Edgar, the privately run but publicly financed Escambia Charter School accepted up to $140,000 from the state to educate a group of 140 students who are classified as "at risk."

At risk for being exploited, it seems. The school hauled in $250,000 from another state agency for putting the students to work on jobs such as cleaning the sides of roads.

Florida law requires that students spend 25 hours a week in class. The Escambia students spent just five hours in class--one hour a day. The rest of the time was spent on road crews.

Each student was paid $10 an hour for their work. But the school was paid $16.25 an hour for each student by the state. In other words, it was pocketing about $40,000 a year.

According to a prosecutor, in order to cover up the scam, school officials submitted false attendance records and grade reports.

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