Codey Calls For Crackdown And Investigation On “Diploma Mills” Incidents

Senate President Richard J. Codey, D-Essex, speaks at the bill signing ceremony for the measure sponsored by Senator Joseph F. Vitale, D-Middlesex, which would expand the availability and promotion of NJ FamilyCare and take the first step to ensuring affordable health care coverage for all New Jerseyans.

Asks School Supts to Return Taxpayer Dollars for Questionable Degrees

TRENTON — Senate President Richard J. Codey (D-Essex) today sent letters to both Attorney General Anne Milgram and Department of Education (DOE) Commissioner Lucille Davy requesting an investigation and crackdown on school administrators who obtain degrees from unaccredited and questionable colleges and universities. Codey made the request in light of recent reports that various school superintendents and administrators have received pay raises and tuition reimbursements for degrees they received from unaccredited online universities.

“I’ve reached out to Commissioner Davy to discuss the situation and acknowledge the effort that the Department of Education put into investigating the matter. She indicated that she’s supportive of our efforts to investigate the matter further and has offered her cooperation. However, I believe the severity of the situation warrants further investigation by the Attorney General,” said Codey. “How can you tell me someone who sends in their resume and writes a two-page paper to receive a secondary degree, is not knowingly gaming the system?”

“This amounts to a serious abuse of taxpayer dollars. Anyone, particularly someone in the education field, should understand the importance of obtaining a degree from an accredited university. These incidents should be investigated fully to determine if any wrongdoing or misrepresentation took place and, moving forward, we need to make sure this is not allowable in any way shape or form,” added Codey.

In doing so, Codey requested that the Attorney General’s Office investigate the instances further to determine whether the administrators knowingly misrepresented their qualifications to obtain public funds, a crime under a law passed last September.

In a separate letter to the DOE, Codey requested that the commissioner move forward in drafting regulations that would require all school superintendents to receive degrees from officially accredited colleges and universities in order to obtain salary increases or tuition reimbursement.

“It’s completely and utterly ridiculous that people at the top of our educational system are being paid, rewarded in fact, for a degree that for all intents and purposes comes from a fake university. To quote Freehold Superintendent H. James Wasser, ‘The only thing I would probably do differently, is now that I am aware of this word ‘accreditation,’ I would probably thoroughly research that.’ Herein lies the perfect example of why our administrators should receive degrees from accredited universities – to save us the embarrassment of having educational leaders who are unaware of such qualifications to begin with. At the very least this is stupidity, at the worst, it may be criminal.”

“One of the arguments used to defend these online degrees is that they save taxpayers money because school employees do not have to leave work early every day to attend classes. Well, giving these individuals the benefit of the doubt that they may not have known all the details about these cracker jack universities, if they really want to save taxpayers money, they should give back their salary increases and reimburse taxpayers for the money spent to take these so-called courses.”

Codey also announced that he plans to introduce legislation that would require all school board employees – including teachers and principals – to hold degrees from accredited universities in order to receive pay increases and tuition reimbursement. Codey intends to introduce the legislation during the next Senate session.

A copy of the full letters sent to Attorney General Milgram and Commissioner Davy are included below:

August 19, 2008

Attorney General Anne Milgram

State of New Jersey

P.O. Box 080

Trenton, NJ 08625-0080

Dear Attorney General Milgram:

I’m sure you are aware of a number of disturbing reports about various school superintendents and administrators who have received degrees from unaccredited and highly questionable universities and have since been rewarded with pay raises and tuition reimbursements. At this time, I am requesting that your office further investigate these instances to determine whether there is evidence of fraud or material misrepresentations that would warrant a criminal investigation.

Should there be sufficient evidence that any of these superintendents or administrators fabricated their qualifications, it would no doubt constitute a crime under the new law passed last September that criminalizes the assertion of material misrepresentations to acquire public funds.

This amounts to a serious abuse of taxpayer dollars. Anyone, particularly someone in the education field, should understand the importance of obtaining a degree from an accredited university. These incidents should be investigated fully to determine if any wrongdoing or misrepresentation took place and, moving forward, we need to make sure this is not allowable in any way shape or form

In the interest of preserving the integrity of our educational system and protecting taxpayer dollars, I sincerely hope your office will pursue this matter.

Sincerely,

Richard J. Codey

Senate President

August 19, 2008

Commissioner Lucille E. Davy

NJ Department of Education

P.O. Box 500

Trenton, NJ 08625-0500

Dear Commissioner Davy:

I have read a number of disturbing reports about school superintendents and administrators who received raises and tuition payments for degrees they received from unaccredited universities. Many of these so-called “diploma mills,” like Breyer State or Almeda universities, have little to no oversight and amount to nothing more than a diploma-for-hire. Furthermore, Breyer State University, has been kicked out of two states – Alabama and Idaho – for its lack of accreditation.

It’s unacceptable that top officials within our state educational system, those entrusted with ensuring a quality education for our children, should receive salary increases for what essentially amounts to nothing more than a fake diploma from a fake university. Sadly, these degrees were accepted and bonuses were awarded as a result.

At this time, I am formally requesting that moving forward the New Jersey Department of Education promulgate standards requiring that all degrees for superintendents must come from an accredited college or university, not only to be hired, but in order to receive salary advances and tuition reimbursements. Your attention to this matter is appreciated.

Sincerely,

Richard J. Codey

Senate President