Washinton - Federal law says that failing public schools have to provide free tutoring service to students. It is called Supplemental Educational Services (SES).
Concerned parents contacted FOX 5 about one of the groups approved for tutoring by D.C.'s Office of the State Superintendent of Education (OSSE) - a group that has connections to the founder of the Church of Scientology.
Applied Scholastics International is one of 29 tutoring services listed in the Title I Supplemental Educational Services Guide. Parents of students in failing D.C. public schools can choose which provider they would prefer for their children.
The list makes no mention of the group's controversial ties. But Applied Scholastics’ website does not try to hide its connections.
ASI uses a method called Study Technology, "an exact system which teaches one how to learn" that was "researched and developed by L. Ron Hubbard." Hubbard is the founder of the Church of Scientology.
Answering the question "What does Applied Scholastics do?" the site says, "The job of Applied Scholastics is to place the Study Technology developed by ... L. Ron Hubbard into the hands of the world's students and educators."
FOX 5 has learned that D.C. Public Schools paid the group a total of $12,000 in federal funds for tutoring services provided for the 2009-2010 school year.
That raised eyebrows of the D.C. Public Schools advocates we reached. Some were concerned that recent budget cuts and layoffs at the Office of the School Superintendent for Education might have affected its screening criteria. Not the case, said Chad Colby, a spokesperson for OSSE.
Colby said there is "a strict and intensive application process for tutoring services." He noted that OSSE follows federal guidelines in approving tutors for the SES program and that those rules do allow faith-based organizations to participate.
Colby said the bottom line is about student achievement. He says OSSE does monitor programs to make sure they are improving student grades, and following the school system's curriculum.
FOX 5 reached out to the local and national contacts for Applied Scholastics but did not hear back from them. The local Church of Scientology said it had heard of the tutoring group, but that it does not teach "scientology" but just teaches students how to learn.