By John Griffing
CSCOPE, a controversial school curriculum management system in Texas that once included a description of the Boston Tea Party as an act of terror and has called Islamic terrorists freedom fighters has given up pages of its financial records under threat of a subpoena by state Sen. Dan Patrick.
Patrick sought the records after Texans told him they had uncovered financial irregularities in the organization’s financial records.
Patrick threatened CSCOPE with a subpoena of all financial documents if disclosure was not achieved voluntarily. CSCOPE provided 5,000 pages of documents in response to Patrick’s request, and the information now is being reviewed.
“I’m glad that the CSCOPE board finally recognized that they must respond to our request for detailed financial information,” said Patrick. “I only wish I didn’t have to threaten a subpoena before getting this information.
“For some reason the board at CSCOPE believes they are above open disclosure and total transparency to parents and legislators,” Patrick added.
CSCOPE is owned by a corporate nonprofit started in 2009 called the Texas Education Service Center Curriculum Collaborative (TESCCC). TESCCC is comprised of 20 separate “Education Service Centers” who all pay for the right to sell CSCOPE as a product to independent school districts.
Board members of the TESCCC claimed for months that no financial documentation existed, since all funds leave the nonprofit and are transferred to a “fiscal agent,” a claim which has stumped some financial experts who told WND that only public agencies have “fiscal agents,” and that a nonprofit must show distribution of funds.
According Chriss Street, the former treasurer of Orange County, Calif., and the individual who was instrumental in exposing the savings and loan debacle of the 1980s, the TESCCC reporting methods are questionable.
“The Texas Educational Service Center Curriculum Collaborative appears to have not applied for a Government Exempt, or a Tax Exempt 501C-3 or 501C-4 determination letter. I have made an investigation and have not discovered any Government Exempt or Tax Exempt determination letters on file,” said Street.
“There is no federal or state requirement for individuals or associations without revenue or sales to file any tax reporting. But it is my understanding and belief that TESCCC appears to have substantial sales and significant fee income and may be fully taxable as a trade or business and or subject to gift taxes,” Street added.
All nonprofits are required to file what is called a “Return of organization exempt from income tax” – form 990 – which would show income and distribution. CSCOPE has never filed a form 990, even though it handles millions of dollars annually.
As Patrick told the press in his release of May 10, “It was clear to me the non-profit was set up to hide information from someone. I’m glad the board is beginning to understand they are a public entity and the people of Texas and the legislature have a right to their records.”
TESCCC board minutes obtained by WND show that expenses and payments have been approved by the nonprofit, yet no public record exists for these transactions.
According to information sent to WND through citizen public information requests, the TESCCC also did business with companies without formal contracts, and paid millions of taxpayer dollars to these companies.
“National Education Resources, Inc. (NER),” which turns out to be a single individual, James Jennings, who filed a DBA under his residential address, received over $6 million from the TESCCC without a formal contract, records show.
The documents indicate that CSCOPE did not have a contract with NER until spring 2011, when the contract was put in place and made retroactive to July 2010.
NER was paid an estimated $3 million from 2010-2011 and about $3 million 2011-2012, records show.
The TESCCC (CSCOPE nonprofit) voted against conducting an audit or background check of Jennings when his two-year contract was negotiated. When the contract termed out, CSCOPE gave Jennings another $213,000 during the summer, when teachers were not even utilizing CSCOPE.
CSCOPE’s original price tag was just over $4 million, but schools are required to lease the product annually, and costs by district can exceed the $1 million mark. Ector County ISD paid $1.7 million in a single year for what certified curriculum professional and WND education correspondent Mary Bowen says is a “glorified calendar.”
WND previously reported on a school district’s attempt to charge parents for copies of CSCOPE lessons that are the property of taxpayers.
Amy Zimmerman, a mother in the Collinsville Independent School District, asked to see the 7th grade CSCOPE science lessons used between September 2012 and May 2013, citing her “parental right” under state law.
But Zimmerman received a letter from an attorney for the district requiring the payment of $770 to see the materials.
CSCOPE has faced heavy criticism by parents, teachers and legislators, culminating in legislative hearings that revealed serious academic deficiencies in the areas of math, science and English, as well as what many critics believe is an agenda-driven bias in social studies content that promotes a negative view of America.
WND has reported on lessons claiming the Boston Tea Party was a terrorist act, and lessons requiring students to design flags for a new communist country. The latter lesson was created in October 2012.
Teachers also have told WND:
Lessons are not matched to grade level; a ninth-grade lesson asks students to circle capital letters in a sentence.
One social studies lesson teaches that capitalism is obsolete and communism is the best economic system, using a diagram that shows a man climbing a ladder towards communism.
A third-grade lesson defines American “equality” as “fair share.” Competing definitions that include “equality under the law” or “equal opportunity” are not discussed.
Muhammad is portrayed as a social justice crusader. There is no mention of his marriage to a young girl or his beheading of indigenous population groups.
Political parties are taught from what critics claim is a subjective and left-leaning perspective, e.g. Democrats “benefit each individual” while Republicans “favor big business.”
WND has also recently acquired lessons covering the U.S. Constitution and the Bill of Rights, teaching students that “medicine” and “food” are “rights,” and not a matter of personal responsibility.
Students who do not answer that “medicine” and “food” are “rights” have their answers marked as incorrect, sources report.
Other controversial lesson content includes a science lesson that instructs students to set things on fire in the middle of class and also lessons that promote anorexia and mercy death, according to Bowen.
CSCOPE also has come under fire for its secrecy and lack of transparency, forcing teachers and districts to sign “user agreements” – what whistleblowers say amount to “gag orders.”
Teachers are exposed to legal liability if they share lesson content or other class materials with the general public, and threats of termination have been reported by teachers who attempt to engage parents about controversial CSCOPE content.