The office of Texas State Auditor John Keel has released an audit report on CSCOPE, the curriculum management system at one point used by approximately 875 public, private and charter schools in Texas. This report comes 18 months after public scrutiny of the previously secretive program revealed a troubling picture of this taxpayer-funded curriculum operating outside normal taxpayer accountability and government oversight channels with course content viewed by some as anti-American, impractical and poorly-crafted. Its campus-level implementation caused additional concern as it seemingly attempts to enforce a regimented, indoctrination-oriented approach to classroom instruction.
CSCOPE was developed an administered under the auspices of an illegally-formed nonprofit 501(c)(3) organization called the Texas Education Service Center Curriculum Collaborative (TESCCC). Its board comprised the states’ 20 Education Service Center (ESC) executive directors. The initial funding of CSCOPE’s development and associated personnel appears to have come through the taxpayer-funded ESCs.
- Participating ESCs reported collecting a total of $73.9 million in revenue from the sale of CSCOPE services to school districts, charter schools and private schools from September 2005 through August 2013. For that same time period, the ESCs reported a total of $67.8 million in CSCOPE-related expenditures.
- Auditors were not able to verify the total amount that ESCs reported they paid for the development, installation, distribution and marketing of CSCOPE because some of the ESCs did not separately track CSCOPE-related expenditure transactions. Some also did not separately track CSCOPE-related revenue transactions. As a result, auditors were not able to fully answer the audit objective to determine the amount of revenue and expenditures related to the development, installation, distribution and marketing of CSCOPE.
- Because ESCs have broad authority to provide services to Texas schools, the centers received no specific state funds appropriated for the development, implementation and operation of CSCOPE nor did they have specific contract laws to follow in procuring services such as the development and implementation of CSCOPE. The broad authority also did not require the procurement of CSCOPE to have approval of either the Texas Education Agency (TEA) or the State Board of Education (SBOE).
- From 2006 through 2013, seven CSCOPE contracts were executed, however, auditors were unable to identify documentation showing that the ESCs performed a best value assessment for (1) the contracts between the Region 8 ESC (Region 8–Mount Pleasant) and CSCOPE vendor National Education Resources, Inc., or (2) the contract between the Collaborative and National Education Services, Inc., as required by Texas Education Code, Section 44.031. Note this district is in the area represented by State Board of Education member Thomas Ratliff, an official whose own potential conflict of interest has been the subject of controversy. Per the report, “the early contracts Region 8-Mount Pleasant executed lacked fundamental provisions to help protect the State’s and taxpayers’ interests” and “contracts between Region 8-Mount Pleasant and National Education Resources, Inc. from 2006 through 2011 lacked significant elements.”
- While the ESCs generally administered revenues and expenditures assessed or collected in compliance with applicable laws and rules, auditors identified deficiencies in the processes that they used to track CSCOPE-related revenues and expenditures.
- With regard to its revenue reporting, the TESCCC did not always account for expenditures in compliance with internal policies and procedures and the Texas Education Agency’s financial guidelines. Specifically, of the 60 expenditure transactions tested, 14 (23 percent) lacked proper approvals, 13 (22 percent) did not include adequate support for the amounts and 10 (17 percent) were not categorized in compliance with TEA guidance.
- The ESCs generally administered the revenues and expenditures related to the development, installation, distribution and marketing of CSCOPE, but were unable to identify all CSCOPE-related revenues and expenditures. The 20 ESCs reported to auditors receipt of $73.9 million in revenues from school districts, charter schools and private schools for CSCOPE-related services while incurring $67.8 million in CSCOPE-related expenditures.
- The TEA Financial Accountability System Resource Guide provided to ESCs for financial guidance is not sufficient to address the programs and services they provide.
- CSCOPE services, including related fees, varied widely among the nine ESCs audited with no consistent method for calculating the CSCOPE fees charged to the school districts, charter schools and private schools.
- Most ESCs offered supplemental CSCOPE-related support services to participating schools such as additional days of training or specialized instruction. Only one of the nine ESCs audited did not charge additional fees for those support services. The other eight provided a variety of additional services with associated fees. For example, one education service center charged $45 for one person to receive content training, while another education service center charged $650 per day per presenter for additional instruction.
Click here to view the complete report.
CSCOPE has somewhat dropped from the headlines – a status the Texas education industry undoubtedly hopes to maintain. Questions regarding CSCOPE and the funds it generated, however, remain unanswered. This audit report only refines the questions that should be asked. And engaged taxpayers, parents and students should not be shy in demanding answers.