The Federal Bureau of Investigations (FBI) was reportedly investigating a deal signed under Barbara Byrd-Bennett during her tenure at the Detroit Public Schools (DPS) district long before she came to Chicago to run the city’s public school system, according to the Chicago Sun-Times.
Specifically, the federal agency was looking into a $40 million textbook and online training contract that DPS signed with Byrd-Bennett’s former employer Houghton Mifflin Harcourt while she was earning $18,000 a month as the district’s chief academic and accountability auditor.
Earlier this month, Byrd-Bennett was indicted on several counts of mail and wire fraud as part of kickback scheme for a $20 million Chicago Public Schools contract with her former employer SUPES Academy. Byrd-Bennett pleaded guilty to one count of wire fraud and is facing up to seven years of prison time for the offense.
There are obvious parallels between the two deals and each contract piqued the interest of their respective school district’s inspector generals who, in turn, contacted the FBI.
Critics say the probe in Detroit should have pinged on Chicago’s radar during Byrd-Bennett’s vetting process for the CPS CEO position. But the school district says the former schools chief’s actions could not have been anticipated, while the mayor’s office has failed to respond to questions concerning Byrd-Bennett’s hiring.
“No one could have predicted the crime that Barbara Byrd-Bennett admitted to earlier this month,” a CPS spokesperson told the Sun-Times. “As we’ve said before, CPS will do everything in our power to make sure that this will not happen again, and that every possible dollar reaches our classrooms.”
Read more about the FBI’s Detroit investigation here.