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Feds Charge 13 Detroit Schools Leaders in Bribery, Kickback Scheme

Twelve current and former Detroit public schools principals, an assistant superintendent, and a well-connected school vendor are facing federal charges for their alleged roles in a bribery and kickback scheme.

The owner of school supply company Allstate Sales is charged with paying $908,500 in kickbacks to at least a dozen Detroit principals who used him as a vendor in exchange for money. Among the principals charged is the head of Spain Elementary-Middle School,  a decaying Detroit building that's slated to receive more than $500,000 worth of donations and renovations secured by talk show host Ellen DeGeneres.

As part of the scheme, the principals charged in the case would certify and submit phony invoices for the school supplies to the Detroit district's assistant superintendent, who steered close to $3 million dollars in business to Allstate Sales, U.S. Attorney Barbara McQuade said Tuesday.

According to the Detroit Free Press, the assistant superintendent charged in the case had the authority to "select vendors and order supplemental resources such as maps and workbooks" for a number of schools. She previously worked with Allstate Sales' owner during her time as a principal in the district.

The vendor, Allstate Sales, was paid in full for the supplies and materials, which included  auditorium chairs, workbooks, and paper. but the goods were rarely delivered, McQuade said.

The charges come at a critical time for the Detroit public schools as Michigan's state legislature mulls the future of the troubled, financially strapped district, which has been under state control since 2009. Gov. Rick Snyder has proposed a bailout plan to help pay off the district's $515 million operating deficit. Overall, rescuing the district is expected to cost about $715 million over a decade.

To ensure that the school district won't run out of cash in April, state lawmakers passed a nearly $49 million emergency funding package for the district last week. Gov. Snyder signed the legislation Tuesday.

Teacher and parent protests this winter shed light on the district's financial struggles and decaying school buildings.

But the indictments and wide-ranging corruption investigation could raise questions among lawmakers considering a long-term solution to Detroit's problems.

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