January 14, 2020

Quid Pro Quo & Ed-Tech: Warn Your Superintendent

Photo by Andrew Neel on Unsplash

A number of organizations, some who are quasi-government entities and some who are for-profit companies, continue to create pay-to-play events in education. They pay superintendents to attend in a remarkable feat of unawareness of federal conflict-of-interest and bribery laws, even though superintendents are usually taking at least some Title 1 money from the Federal level. These organizations often create the illusion that the attendee is specially chosen, and he or she is enticed with short programs on rather routine topics, plus a resort-style destination with expenses paid in addition to a “consulting fee.” The organizations tell their vendors they can expect a “high return on investment” since the vendors will be operating under the pretext of “doing product research” while pitching superintendents relentlessly.

No subsequent research is ever published, at least not from any public press releases you might expect would be a natural outcome of such research to highlight the new product directions of any one of these companies. The result is that superintendents fall for one of the oldest ploys in the book – pay to play.

Unsuspecting superintendents keep getting ensnared in this scheme to attend meetings which are little more than time-share-style pitching by vendors who pay enormous amounts to lasso in school and district leaders. Companies love these ideas because it’s “like shooting fish in a barrel,” as one industry source said to the Learning Counsel. The size of subsequent deals that are frequently non-competed are enormous – and very risky. Many superintendents have gone to jail or come under intense political pressure over this.

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