A school in Oakland seems to have learned an entirely wrong lesson from Charles Dickens' "Oliver Twist," says one education official. After an investigation, launched by CBS 5 and California Watch, uncovered that Saint Andrew Missionary Baptist Church Private School set its students to panhandling on BART stations, Oakland School Board member Noel Gallo has called on the Oakland Unified School District to review the relationship it has with the school.
"It sends a bad message to the taxpayer, you and I that are providing our taxes to serve kids," Gallo said. "For us to have them out there in front of BART stations, trying to collect their own money for their own tuition while we as a taxpayer are subsidizing those efforts is criminal."
Gallo also wants the contracts terminated immediately if cheating is discovered.
The investigation also uncovered a raft of other misdeeds, including inflating the number of students attending St. Andrew. For over a decade, the school reported that 195 students were enrolled there every year, when in reality, less than 20 were actually attending class there. The misreporting was done in order to bring in additional federal education funds.
The panhandling scandal first came to light two years ago, when a student named Moses, interviewed by a CBS 5 reporter, said that he'd been collecting donations for the school in front of the San Francisco Ferry Building for years. The interview helped launch a three-month investigation that found the school sending out its students to every part of the city, up to five days a week. Kids stood on street corners, in front of buildings and at train stations, asking strangers for money, sometimes after dark.
One young student said, "It's called interpersonal communications class." Another girl said the children had to go out fund-raising Monday through Friday. And a third student told us they were usually out 5-to-6 hours a day.
After the report first aired, the school stopped sending kids out, but after a while, they returned. One student, Courtney Corbitt, who was interviewed on the record, says that when she was a student at St. Andrew, all students were taken out daily, by the school's pastor Robert Lacy, in a white van that lacked adequate seating and didn't have seat belts. Other groups of children were driven out in Lacy's Escalade.
There is no way of knowing just how much money the children bring in. Saint Andrew is a private religious school, so they not required to file tax forms. But a California Watch and CBS 5 joint investigation revealed Saint Andrew is getting lots of taxpayer money from the Federal Government.
Documents obtained from the Oakland Unified School District show the school was awarded $50,000 in federal funds this school year.