That’s right. I’m calling it fraud. Because it’s fraud.
Why is Paul Soma retiring?
On Thursday, December 20, TCAPS Superintendent Paul Soma announced his retirement. An announcement only a day later may have given us the real reason why.
TCAPS is part of an ongoing funding dispute with the Michigan Department of Education. DOE officials say that TCAPS inflated student count. The issue relates to TCAPS’ homeschool share program. Homeschool students meet at the old Interlochen school building one day a week to take elective classes like art and gym. TCAPS billed the state for these students, but they billed too much. They were only supposed to get prorated per pupil funding for the amount of time that the kids spent in class. Instead, they found a way to inflate those numbers and claim much more than they should have.
The dispute was at the point that TCAPS was appealing the DOE’s decision to demand the money back. It wasn’t looking good for TCAPS. The state wanted something like $700K repaid.
Larry Inman protects TCAPS from Student Count Fraud
Soma realizes he’s in it up to his neck. Soma calls local state rep and part-time fixer Larry Inman. Instead of telling TCAPS to deal with the consequences of their own actions, Inman decides to throw a $700K “grant” into the last bill of the legislative year. Inman essentially gets tax dollars to bailout TCAPS. Inman is on the Michigan House appropriations committee.
When you’ve committed fraud and you need a bailout, you call your Uncle Larry. You don’t, you know, not commit fraud.
They slipped it into a bill in the middle of the night on the last day of the year. Along with 1.3 billion dollars of other crap. Here’s the Free Press article that I found that explains it. It’s not like TCAPS was going to issue a press release.
So all of this happens, and it’s been in the works for a while – since October at least. And the day before it becomes public, Soma decides to step down. That’s what happened.
And all of this drops on the Friday before Christmas.
Local reporting on tcaps, paul soma student count fraud
So now let’s look at how the local media spins the story.
Let summarize the Record Eagle’s story:
There’s this super unfair audit going on. Like, so, like, unfair like. We’ve already audited ourselves twice, with our own auditors, and decided we were fine. All TCAPS did was get more money for the children. And why do these people hate children? The Michigan Department of Education people just hate children. Larry Inman is our hero. See the conquering hero comes!
Let’s summarize the Upnorthlive article:
Headline: “Legislature passes $1.3B supplemental budget, intervention bills in overnight session”
TCAPS? We didn’t mention TCAPS. Who said this had anything to do with TCAPS?
So the local media either outright brushes over the fact that it happened, or they paint Uncle Larry as a hero for fixing the fraud. It’s dishonesty on top of dishonesty.
Did TCAPS know that it was committing student count fraud?
TCAPS officials have been discussing how they count shared time students for a long time. Here are board minutes back to 2017 talking about it. In the minutes, they say something interesting:
“Shared time program was capped at .75 per student. We were previously at .8 per student. We will have to see
how it works out. The good news to counter that is that we do not need to get a seat time waiver.”
Before, if they were trying to claim more money for a child than the time the child was actually in class, they had to do a seat time waiver to show the state why they deserved more money for the child than they would get based on how much time the child was actually in class. But in these minutes, TCAPS seems giddy about the fact that TCAPS no longer had to show their work to state officials about what these kids were doing outside of class that supposedly justified them getting extra money.
So TCAPS has known what they were doing for a long time. That the state auditors finally caught up to them shouldn’t come as a surprise. TCAPS was playing a game of catch me if you can, and they got caught.
But, when you’re connected to those in power, the rules don’t apply to you.
Was Paul Soma Forced to Resign?
There’s no way Uncle Larry would have told Soma he had to retire to get this deal. And, the local media doesn’t seem interested in holding Soma accountable. So who pressured Soma to retire? Was it Snyder? Wasn’t it just weeks ago that Soma got a stellar review and a raise? The TCAPS board has been digging their heels in for Soma for years. No one seemed interested in doing an about face on Soma, so why did Soma make the sudden decision to announce his retirement?