Summary List Placement
An Insider investigation has found that some of California’s highest-ranking education officials and leading public universities worked closely with a businessman named Steven Ma to help set up an exclusive private boarding school in Qingdao, China, called Pegasus California School. The school, which cost roughly $34,ooo per year, purported to be a replica of a public high school in California, and was nominally a part of the Val Verde Unified School District in Riverside County, California.
California’s former top education official and a former state secretary of education were involved in the effort, as were senior Val Verde officials and a retired senior staffer within the University of California Office of the President, the headquarters of the UC system, who continued to work as as a contractor for the University of California at Irvine even as Pegasus was paying him to help its students gain admission.
The public servants, records show, gave Ma and his associates official state appointments and helped grease the skids to give Pegasus students a leg up in the increasingly cutthroat University of California admissions process. Not only did UC Irvine offer summer-school programs specially arranged for Pegasus students, it dispatched admissions staffers to the school’s China campus to talk to students and their parents, and specifically monitored Pegasus students’ progress through the admissions cycle. At UC Riverside, the ties were even closer: The university pledged to work with Pegasus students to help them become competitive applicants and offered them special permission to submit applications after the deadline had passed.
Val Verde’s superintendent publicly proclaimed that UC Riverside guaranteed admission to all Pegasus graduates, according to the minutes of a public-school board meeting. One former California education official described the arrangement, if it exists, as “appalling.”
In an interview, Ma said Pegasus students never received preferential treatment from …read more