Judge says schools should be blocked from vouchers

voucher program schools
A judge's recommended order says the Lion of Judah Academy should be prevented from taking part in voucher programs.

An administrative law judge Tuesday recommended that the state bar two Orlando private schools from voucher programs after the schools employed an administrator who could not pass a background screening.

Judge Hetal Desai issued a 24-page recommended order that said the Lion of Judah Academy, which operates two campuses, should be prevented from taking part in the John M. McKay Scholarships for Students with Disabilities Program, the Florida Tax Credit Scholarship Program, the Gardiner Scholarship Program, the Hope Scholarship Program and the Family Empowerment Scholarship Program.

Education Commissioner Richard Corcoran issued administrative complaints against the schools this year after the Department of Education found out that an administrator, Lorene Walker, had pleaded no contest to a 1994 felony drug charge that prevented her from passing the background screening.

The department advised the schools in late 2019 that Walker would have to be terminated, but it alleged she continued doing work for a period after that. Desai wrote that evidence indicated the schools engaged in “fraudulent” activity related to Walker’s employment.

“Specifically, the schools employed Ms. Walker from 2014 (if not earlier) through December 2019 (if not later) in a position in which she was in the vicinity of scholarship students, knowing that she had been found guilty of a felony and without obtaining or providing documentation related to a Level 2 background clearance,” the judge wrote.

“The schools continued to allow Ms. Walker to remain in a position that placed her in the vicinity of scholarship students after receiving notification of her ineligibility for almost a month (if not more).” Under administrative law, Desai’s recommendation will go back to the Department of Education for a final order.

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Republished with permission from the News Service of Florida

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