Bellevue candidate taught at school that was later discredited
Bellevue City Council candidate Steve Kasner says he was unaware of problems at now-closed Business Computer Training Institute, where he was an administrator and teacher.
Seattle Times staff reporter
Bellevue City Council candidate Steve Kasner was an administrator and teacher at a computer school that closed after investigations showed it falsified basic-skills test scores of prospective students.
Kasner said he was unaware of wrongdoing at Business Computer Training Institute, where he worked from 2002 to 2004.
He was director of instruction at BCTI’s Everett campus and then a teacher at its Southcenter location.
Kasner, who is running for City Council against incumbent Kevin Wallace, said he administered basic-skills tests to prospective students, hired teachers and counseled students in Everett, then taught basic computer skills at Southcenter.
Now working as a substitute teacher for several Eastside private schools, Kasner is chairman of the East Bellevue Community Council.
It was only after he left BCTI and the school closed, he said, that he learned others at BCTI apparently manipulated test scores to qualify new students for federal loans.
“I didn’t realize it at the time because I never passed anybody that didn’t pass,” Kasner said.
“I wasn’t high enough in the food chain to actually have seen what was happening. I was surprised, because a lot of these guys were good educators.”
And, he said, he didn’t see what was being done by recruiters or career-placement staffers.
Gig Harbor-based BCTI, which had five campuses in Washington and two in Oregon, abruptly closed its doors in 2005 amid allegations that it was admitting underqualified students and giving them marginal educations to bring in money from federal and state student loans and grants.
Although the school’s owners denied the accusations, they agreed to settle class-action lawsuits on behalf of 1,600 former students, paying them and their lawyers $16 million.
In 2004, after a BCTI-hired investigator found basic-skills test fraud, the Washington Higher Education Coordinating Board demanded repayment of more than $50,000, based on failure to prevent test manipulation.
The school closed after Oregon education officials found students were misled about a program that was unlikely to benefit them, and put the campuses in that state on probation.
A 2006 investigation by The News Tribune in Tacoma found that BCTI recruiters targeted poor people outside welfare and unemployment offices; pressured employees to admit and retain unqualified students; and left graduates with large debt and menial jobs.
Darrell Cochran, a Tacoma lawyer who represented students in their suits against BCTI, said he didn’t understand how Kasner could have been unaware he was working in “a complete sham operation” that by 2004 was in “extreme sales mode” as the owners saw the end coming.
But the News Tribune stories noted that some former students were happy with the education they received at BCTI.
Kasner said he saw only “one or two students out of 400 or 500” whom he thought might not be qualified for the classes they were attending.
And he said there were notable successes among his students, who were mostly blue collar, and many of whom struggled to overcome drug and alcohol addictions.
Two Spanish-speaking students and their two children graduated from BCTI, opened a computer-repair shop “and basically generated family income out of nothing,” he said.
Keith Ervin: 206-464-2105 or firstname.lastname@example.org