In a follow-up letter sent to the Florida Department of Education, a whistleblower has submitted specific examples purportedly showing that publishers have offered lower prices on instructional material to Florida’s bigger school districts, while simultaneously violating Florida law by overcharging rural districts – in some cases to the tune of millions of dollars.
It is illegal in Florida for publishers to charge more for instructional materials when the same materials are offered for less to any other state or school district in the United States. The law also requires prices to be automatically reduced when those reductions are offered elsewhere in the country. Materials must also be provided free of charge when they are provided free to any other state or school district.
The letter, written on behalf of an anonymous whistleblower (“John/Jane Doe”) by attorneys William Spicola and Adam Komisar (the Komisar Spicola law firm), also suggests that Florida Department of Education General Counsel Anastasios Loannis Kamoutsas is looking into the claims.
“We write you in response to your request for further information on behalf of our client, John/Jane Doe (Doe)…” the letter begins.
The letter also includes specific allegations that Lee County may have been overcharged for a handful of textbooks by about $485,940.83, while other counties appear to have been overcharged by similar amounts. The letter stresses that their analysis of the evidence also suggests that even larger counties, like Miami-Dade, may have been illegally overcharged for English Language Arts (ELA) materials. The attorneys estimate that just for procurement of ELA materials for Kindergarten through 1st Grade, the county appears to have overpaid by more than $1.2 milion.
Finally, the letter suggests that those are only a small handful of examples from only a few counties, and that more overcharges are likely. The attorneys say that there is no authority in Florida with direct oversight of how textbook publishers comply with the state’s textbook procurement law.
Unlike the original allegations contained in a letter first published by Florida Politics, the new letter includes exhibits including price sheets from textbook publisher McGraw Hill, as well as copies of purchase orders from the Lee County School District, Miami-Dade School District, and Franklin County School Districts showing the higher purchase price.
Under Florida law, a publisher who violates the act could be required to pay the Department of Education three times the total they charged in excess of the legally allowed price, or three times the value charged for any instructional materials that should have been provided to school districts for free.
According to the original letter provided to Florida Politics, the whistleblower also alleged that similar transactions occurred in 2021 with free or reduced prices being offered and used by Hillsborough County compared to Hamilton County in purchases from McGraw Hill, for Volusia County compared to Charlotte County, and for Miami-Dade County compared to Madison County.