May 16, 2013 – As many are aware, two major public schools systems have been the subject of standardized test cheating scandals this year. Government investigations and criminal conspiracies are not scandals typically associated with public schools. But that is exactly what happened in Atlanta, where 34 educators were indicted on criminal charges relating to a decade-long scheme to inflate students test scores. Although no criminal charges have been filed, the District of Columbia public school system has also faced intense scrutiny over discrepancies in student test scores.

May 16, 2013 – As many are aware, two major public schools systems have been the subject of standardized test cheating scandals this year. Government investigations and criminal conspiracies are not scandals typically associated with public schools. But that is exactly what happened in Atlanta, where 34 educators were indicted on criminal charges relating to a decade-long scheme to inflate students test scores. Although no criminal charges have been filed, the District of Columbia public school system has also faced intense scrutiny over discrepancies in student test scores.

Of note to would-be whistleblowers and their attorneys, the investigation into the DC cheating scandal was prompted in-part by a whistleblower or “qui tam” complaint filed in court under the False Claims Act. The False Claims Act allows an individual to file a lawsuit on behalf of the U.S. Government for fraud involving the receipt of federal funds. If the government recovers money, the whistleblower is awarded a share of that recovery. The False Claims Act has long been used to combat Medicare and Medicaid fraud, and has recently seen increased use as a tool to stop fraud by for-profit colleges in connection with the receipt of federal student aid funding.

The DC whistleblower complaint alleges that the school district received increased federal funding under the No Child Left Behind Act due to falsified test scores. The Act, which went into effect in 2001, has increased the amount of direct federal funding (as opposed to state funding) that public schools receive. In 2007, public schools received $12.8 billion in what is known as “Title I” funding. A component of this funding is based upon student test scores. Funding under the Race to the Top program, another new source of federal money, is also linked to objective measures of a schools’ performance.

Fraudulent or false information that is linked to the receipt of federal funds can lead to liability under the False Claims Act, as well as opportunities for whistleblowers to play a role in preventing these abuses. Whistleblower complaints under the False Claims Act involve unique legal procedures and, according to federal law, cannot be filed without an attorney.

IMPORTANT: If you believe you have evidence of fraud against the government, securities fraud, commodities fraud or IRS or New York State tax fraud, contact us for a free, confidential consultation by calling our 24/7 toll-free hotline at 1-800-988-8005 or by submitting an email inquiry (see form above).

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