No Contractor Left Behind

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


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.

MORE HARD-HITTING JOURNALISM

In 2014, before Donald Trump announced his run for president, we knew we had to do something different to address the fundamental challenge facing journalism: how hard-hitting reporting that can hold the powerful accountable can survive as the bottom falls out of the news business.

Being a nonprofit, we started planning The Moment for Mother Jones, a special campaign to raise $25 million for key investments to make Mother Jones the strongest watchdog it can be. Five years later, readers have stepped up and contributed an astonishing $23 million in gifts and future pledges. This is an incredible statement from the Mother Jones community in the face of huge threats—both economic and political—against the free press.

Read more about The Moment and see what we've been able to accomplish thanks to readers' incredible generosity so far, and please join them today. Your gift will be matched dollar for dollar, up to $500,000 total, during this critical moment for journalism.

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.