L.A. schools paid L. Ron Hubbard-based program for failing after-school education

The Daily/July 9, 2012

Los Angeles public schools paid nearly half a million dollars for a tutoring program with close ties to Scientology, a program that the district's own study shows is ineffective, according to documents obtained by The Daily.

The district paid $447,338 to Applied Scholastics International between November 2008 and this past February, invoices provided under a public records request show.

The after-school tutoring, for which the district receives federal funds, is required under the No Child Left Behind law. Failing schools must offer it to low-income students. Although religious organizations are eligible to provide tutoring, Applied Scholastics officials insist its program is separate from the Church of Scientology, despite being based on the theories of its founder, L. Ron Hubbard.

California is one of 12 states that had approved Applied Scholastics for the after-school tutoring. In all, Applied Scholastics worked with 248 public schools in 2010 and took in $1.3 million from its education and literacy programs, the bulk of it from the tutoring.

Luis Mora, who oversees the after-school tutoring in Los Angeles, said Applied Scholastics' program is a small one in the district.

The city spent $49.5 million on all after-school tutoring in the 2009-2010 school year and $52.2 million in 2010-2011. Mora said there have been no complaints about proselytizing during class.

At the same time, a report released last year showed that students who attended the Applied Scholastics tutoring in the 2009-2010 school year fared worse on standardized math and language tests compared with those who did not attend. The difference was particularly noticeable for the math scores, according to the report.

Applied Scholastics was one of 30 tutoring programs offered by the district. Twenty-four students were tutored in language, 16 in math.

"Are we excited or are we impressed about the type of contribution they make to our students' performance? No," Mora said. "But do we feel the same way about 95 percent of the providers? Yes."

Officials from Applied Scholastics did not respond to a request for comment.

Spokeswoman Christine Gerson previously claimed that 36 million people worldwide have benefited from Hubbard's educational method, called "study technology."

"Study Technology has as its sole purpose teaching people how to learn," she wrote in April. "Given that the press has reported that one-eighth of the world's population fail to meet minimum standards of literacy, the need for a technology to assist people in the learning process is undeniable. It is designed for no other purpose, and in our experience, parents, teachers and educators all over the world heartily welcome it and recommend it to others."

The U.S. Department of Education has begun issuing waivers exempting states from provisions of No Child Left Behind, including the tutoring. California has applied for one, though without meeting requirements the Education Department has been demanding of other states. It hopes to hear this month whether it has been approved.

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