A Florida couple is being charged with stealing questions from a state test to certify teachers and principals and selling them to people seeking jobs in education, a U.S. attorney announced Friday.
Kathleen and Jeremy Jasper of Estero were indicted on dozens of charges, including racketeering conspiracy, conspiracy to commit wire fraud, wire fraud, conspiracy to commit theft of trade secrets, and theft of trade secrets.
The couple runs a company, NavaED, that prepares educators for the certification tests. U.S. Attorney Lawrence Keefe said the couple and others repeatedly took the online test to memorize questions and answers and then sold them to customers.
“Those questions and answers were purchased by those who sought teacher certification in Florida,” Keefe said during a news conference. “A significant number of individuals as well as organizations obtained these questions and answers and were part of the dissemination of them.”
While Keefe said the case goes beyond Florida, he stressed that there shouldn't be a cloud over the state's teachers and principals.
“Our teachers and our school administrators, the vast, vast, vast majority of them are highly competent, high integrity and selflessly do great and good work each day through very challenging times,” Keefe said. “Great care has to be taken here to make certain that the work we're doing to provide accountability doesn't cast an improper cloud.”
The Florida Education Association, the state's largest teachers union, said it is trying to learn more about the indictment and didn't know enough to comment on it.
The company denied wrongdoing in a statement emailed from a spokesman on behalf of the couple.
“We are proud of our efforts to assist teachers who are entering the profession. With respect to the filings in the Northern District of Florida, we maintain our innocence and we intend to defend the case vigorously to defeat these unfounded charges,” the statement said.
Still the announcement was concerning to some parents.
“It sounds pretty scary to me as a parent that somebody might not actually be prepared enough to be a teacher,” said Jen Broder, who has two children in the Leon County public schools. “A test like that should indicate that they've studied and they're knowledgeable.”