No Contractor Left Behind

How Randy Best’s for-profit education company jumped to the head of the class.

For indispensable reporting on the coronavirus crisis and more, subscribe to Mother Jones' newsletters.


Oct 2001: Best hosts a fundraiser in his high-rise Dallas condo for Sen. Mary Landrieu (D-La.). After receiving $26,000 in donations, Landrieu earmarks $2 million to use Voyager in Washington, DC, schools.

Oct 2001: Georgia schools superintendent Linda Schrenko sets aside $1.1 million to use Voyager in one district. Afterward, company execs, staff, and investors give more than $68,000 to Schrenko’s failed gubernatorial bid. (She will go to prison in 2006 for embezzling federal education money.)

Fall 2001: Chicago public schools reading adviser Timothy Shanahan says Voyager invited him, his staff, and their spouses on a golf junket. Voyager denies placing the call.

Dec 2001: Best donates $10,000 to Chicago schools superintendent Paul Vallas‘ unsuccessful bid to become governor of Illinois. He later lands a job as school superintendent in Philadelphia, where he adopts Voyager. Vallas now heads New Orleans Recovery School District, where he’s using Best’s Epic Learning program in a contract worth $2 million.

June 2002: Best hires David DiStefano, former chief of staff for Rep. Bob Ney (R-Ohio), to help Voyager land federal earmarks. By 2004, Voyager rakes in $7.8 million in earmarks, including $100,000 for a program in Ney’s district.

Early 2003: Texas budgets $12 million for intensive reading courses; seven programs apply for contracts. A state Education Commission department previously headed by a Voyager VP selects just one applicant: Voyager.

Early 2004: A Texas school district hires Dallas schools chief Mike Moses, a former Voyager consultant, to help find a new superintendent. Among his recommendations: Voyager VP Jim Nelson. As the new super, Nelson drops $400,000 on Voyager programs. Moses later goes on to work for Randy Best.

June 2004: Voyager inks the first of $2 million in contracts with the Pentagon office that oversees military schools and where Voyager consultant Denise Glyn Borders used to work.

THE BIG PICTURE

You expect the big picture, and it's our job at Mother Jones to give it to you. And right now, so many of the troubles we face are the making not of a virus, but of the quest for profit, political or economic (and not just from the man in the White House who could have offered leadership and comfort but instead gave us bleach).

In "News Is Just Like Waste Management," we unpack what the coronavirus crisis has meant for journalism, including Mother Jones’, and how we can rise to the challenge. If you're able to, this is a critical moment to support our nonprofit journalism with a donation: We've scoured our budget and made the cuts we can without impairing our mission, and we hope to raise $400,000 from our community of online readers to help keep our big reporting projects going because this extraordinary pandemic-plus-election year is no time to pull back.

THE BIG PICTURE

You expect the big picture, and it's our job at Mother Jones to give it to you. And right now, so many of the troubles we face are the making not of a virus, but of the quest for profit, political or economic (and not just from the man in the White House who could have offered leadership and comfort but instead gave us bleach).

In "News Is Just Like Waste Management," we unpack what the coronavirus crisis has meant for journalism, including Mother Jones’, and how we can rise to the challenge. If you're able to, this is a critical moment to support our nonprofit journalism with a donation: We've scoured our budget and made the cuts we can without impairing our mission, and we hope to raise $400,000 from our community of online readers to help keep our big reporting projects going because this extraordinary pandemic-plus-election year is no time to pull back.

We Recommend

Latest

Sign up for our newsletters

Subscribe and we'll send Mother Jones straight to your inbox.

Get our award-winning magazine

Save big on a full year of investigations, ideas, and insights.

Subscribe

Support our journalism

Help Mother Jones' reporters dig deep with a tax-deductible donation.

Donate

We have a new comment system! We are now using Coral, from Vox Media, for comments on all new articles. We'd love your feedback.