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Op-Ed

School scandal

December 24, 2022

It's the next logical step in the competition to be the best school — cheating. But who has been cheated?

Milt Policzer

By Milt Policzer

Courthouse News columnist; racehorse owner and breeder; one of those guys who always got picked last.

I should have known this was going to happen.

A couple of weeks ago, I wondered here why law schools cared so much about their U.S. News & World Report rankings. The only explanation I could come up with was that the people running schools thought they were like football teams and they wanted to win a national championship.

I may now have been proven correct (although not in a law school context).

What do you get when there’s fierce athletic competition?

Yep — cheating scandals.

A trio of students, backed by the National Student Legal Defense Network, have sued the University of Southern California and an online learning and recruiting company called 2U Inc. for, allegedly, fudging the student stats for USC’s School of Education that they submitted to U.S. News.

According to the complaint, the school cherry-picked numbers for on-campus doctoral students while forgetting to add records for online students. That made enough of a difference to shoot the school up in the rankings. It was kind of like steroids except with numbers instead of injections.

Money, according to the lawsuit, was the reason for this — just like in any other sport. There are, I’m guessing, a lot more openings for online students (as opposed to on-campus students who need places to sit) and a higher ranking meant a lot more applications. 2U, the recruiter, supposedly got 60% of tuition revenues.

OK, I guess that sounds shady and some people ought to be mad. But I do have questions about the lawsuit.

What exactly are the damages to the students here? Did they not get an education? If the courses were of lesser value than advertised, how do you measure that? Would students have learned different things at another school that didn’t fake its stats?

I guess they were overcharged but by how much?

The real victims here are opposing teams. Think about the Dodgers in 2017.

Expect a tidal wave of lawsuits from underrated universities.

Class discipline. Remember what used to happen back when you were in school and a substitute teacher showed up?

That’s right — CHAOS!

It’s hard for a sub to keep order. Some schools in Minnesota may soon have a solution for this problem — a sub who knows how to handle a gun and has actually killed someone.

The person he killed was even a school employee. The shooter now might end up as a substitute teacher.

I know this because a Minnesota Court of Appeals panel has ruled that the state’s Minnesota Professional Educator Licensing and Standards Board has to base a decision on whether to license an ex-cop as a substitute teacher “on (the applicant’s) conduct and his fitness to be a teacher, not fitness to be a police officer.”

In other words, just because you mistakenly pull over an innocent Black man and end up killing him doesn’t mean you can’t teach children.

Well, I guess those are different skills.

Full confession here: my knee-jerk left-wingism led me to believe the would-be teacher is a racist jerk who belongs in jail for a very long time. The description of the shooting is in the ruling, and you can decide that for yourself. But the cop was acquitted at trial, and I wasn’t at the scene of the shooting, so I guess it’s possible my reaction is wrong. Probably not, but remotely possible.

Here’s what I’m wondering: If you’re a teacher in Minnesota and you need a day off, do you call the shooter cop?

Maybe if your kids are really awful….

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