How Does Virginia Budget Early-Childhood-Education Money Wind Up in a Park in Detroit?

by James C. Sherlock – updated Oct 15

I’d like to report an organized crime. It’s just not illegal in Virginia.

The political Left, fully in control of Virginia government, sends taxpayer money to leftist non-profits, who take their cuts and then send it on to local government entities and yet more nonprofits.

It is unethical, but that does not matter to Virginia’s elected Democrats.

But they have set themselves up for a fall. They may not know enough about nonprofit reporting laws to understand it opens the tax money transfers up to public examination.

Federally required independent accountants of nonprofits won’t play along. When non-profits touch the money, they have to report it to the IRS on their annual Form 990’s, where we mere taxpayers can see it.

In this case we will trace early childhood education money from the Virginia budget to a park in Detroit.

Virginia Department of Education.  The Virginia Department of Education has a very large staff in the Division of Early Childhood Care and Education, including several grants managers.  (The Office of Child Care Health and Safety is newly transferred into VDOE from another Virginia agency).

Yet apparently VDOE was thought by the budget writers unsuited to manage all of Virginia’s early childhood education money.

I note that Dr. Lane, the Superintendent of Public Instruction, is appearing before the House Appropriations Committee on Monday, Oct. 18.  Perhaps he will comment on this.

Virginia Early Childhood Foundation (VECF). Enter the nonprofit Virginia Early Childhood Foundation (VECF). VECF “builds capacity for promoting young children’s school readiness.”

You will see in Virginia’s budget under “Direct Aid to Public Education
that VECF is getting over six million dollars a year from Virginia taxpayers. Education Secretary Qarni is on the board.  The Chairman of the board is a professional lobbyist.

You can also see on the VECF Form 990 when the state starting granting that money. Look at the difference in Total revenue, gains, and other support per audited financial statements between 2018 ($5,799,671) and 2019 ($12,233,018). The difference is $6.43 million, almost exactly the current state contribution.

You will further find on the same Form how the money was spent. VECF President Kathryn Glazer makes almost $200,000 a year. If you wonder whether she is a Democrat, see her op-ed in the RTD.

VECF Consulting Expenses.  VECF paid over $600,000 to three “Early Childhood Consulting” firms.

If the twenty-member staff and 17 Directors of VECF do not know enough about early childhood education to get by without three expensive consultants in one year, they should re-evaluate their organization.

One was Communitas Consulting in Charlottesville.

“Communitas Consulting specializes in developing the custom solutions and committed partnerships that help leaders at nonprofits, foundations, and government organizations implement and achieve their vision of success.”

Not for long. It folded after taking $252,000 from VECF in 2019.

The other two were SRI International and School Readiness Consulting.   Those two firms were also VDOE contractors in 2018-19.

Redistribution from VECF to local governments. Look at Schedule I towards the bottom of the form 990 and you will see how VECF redistributes some of that money. Some to school systems. So VECF serves as a cutout for state money going to local school districts. It gets to pick which ones get the money, and it takes its cut.

Redistribution from VECF to yet more nonprofits. Other amounts went from VECF to more nonprofits like Act for Alexandria, which received $360,000 in 2019. Act for Alexandria, too, had expenses to cover.

We go to Act for Alexandria’s 2020 Form 990 and we see it paid its CEO Heather Peeler $175,000 in 2019.

Act for Alexandria does some very good things, but this is not one of them.  I urge them to refuse money from the state or from any other source that takes money from the state.  It is a nasty business, and Act should not participate.

Redistribution from Act for Alexandria to another nonprofit — in Detroit. We also see in that Schedule I that Act for Alexandria’s biggest donation, $116,000 was to Recovery Park in Detroit. Recovery Park controls 60 acres on Detroit’s lower east side that are being used for urban farming.

Not sure why a Detroit nonprofit in the urban farming business winds up with Virginia Early Childhood Education money, but this is how.

Bottom line.  Quite a scheme. Much smoother than Tinker to Evers to Chance.

Lots of six-figure executives and expensive staff all along the pipeline. No visible value added, just costs.

This constitutes a major scandal, even in Virginia.