Best of #StateReads: Florida Investigates Online Educator

  • September 12, 2012
  • By Daniel C. Vock

This week's collection of #StateReads uncovers a Florida state investigation into the country's biggest online education company, explores the powerful forces that keep Oregon's “near dictatorial control” over alcohol in place and questions why Maryland officials have done so little to go after motorists who cheat on tolls.

These examples of extraordinary journalism about state government were recommended in tweets using the #StateReads hashtag on Twitter and in email submissions to dvock@stateline.org.

“Florida investigates K12, nation's largest online educator” —StateImpact Florida and Florida Center for Investigative Reporting

Florida regulators are investigating whether an online education company used unauthorized teachers and tried to get other employees to cover for them, write Trevor Aaronson (@trevoraaronson) and John O'Connor (@johnroconnor). The investigation by the state Department of Education started when one teacher forwarded email messages to officials showing she had been asked to certify she had taught 112 students, when she said she knew only seven of the students on the list. “K12 has a financial incentive to skirt Florida's law requiring the use of certified teachers,” Aaronson and O'Connor wrote. “Simply, K12 can pay uncertified teachers less than certified teachers while collecting the same amount per student from state public school districts, increasing profits for shareholders.” The company also faces scrutiny in Arizona, Georgia and Tennessee.

“Pinot politics: Oregon's ‘archaic' alcohol rules come under fire” — The Oregonian

Laws that give Oregon's state government “near dictatorial control” over alcohol sales and distribution continue to frustrate customers, retailers and winemakers eight decades since they were first enacted, reports Harry Esteve (@hjesteve). “The Prohibition-era laws live on,” he writes, “backed by a cadre of lawyers, lobbyists and people with moneyed interests, not to mention a government that still views itself as an arbiter of morals and temperance — and has a huge financial stake to protect.” The three-part series also describes how current regulations chiefly benefit liquor distributors and explains why neighboring Washington state's liquor law changes have Oregonians thinking twice about more liberal laws.

“As toll cheating increases, Maryland does little to enforce rules” — The Washington Post

Rental car companies and individual drivers have run up big tabs on Maryland's tollways, but the state is doing little to collect, writes Katherine Shaver (@shaverk). The biggest tab goes to a rental car company that owes nearly $209,000. More than 15,000 individual drivers owe more than $500 each, Shaver reports. The Maryland Transportation Authority is doing little to pursue that money. It is not trying to suspend vehicle registrations or reporting unpaid bills to credit-rating agencies. Maryland's relative inaction contrasts with nearby Virginia, where the state blocks car registrations for toll scofflaws. New Jersey recently launched an online “Hall of Shame” for toll cheats.

“Feds slam Florida for warehousing disabled kids” —The Miami Herald

The federal government threatened Florida with a lawsuit after concluding that many of the state's sick and disabled children are growing up in facilities meant for the elderly, often in hospital-like conditions, reports Carol Marbin Miller of The Miami Herald (@MiamiHerald). “Indeed,” wrote Assistant U.S. Attorney General Thomas Perez, “the state has planned, structured and administered a system of care that has led to the unnecessary segregation and isolation of children, often for many years, in nursing facilities.” State officials told the Herald they do not have a policy of placing children in nursing homes, and that those decisions are made on an individual basis.

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