The US District Court for the Western District of Texas on Friday sentenced the ex-superintendent of the El Paso Independent School District (EPISD) [official websites] to three and a half years in prison for manipulating state standardized test scores by removing low-performing students from classrooms. Judge David Briones sentenced former EPISD superintendent Lorenzo Garcia to 42 months in prison and ordered Garcia to pay $236,500 in restitution and fines. Garcia pleaded guilty in June to two counts of fraud for conspiring to inflate the district's standardized test scores [AP report] by excluding hundreds of high school sophomores from taking the tests. Several EPISD employees expressed dissatisfaction with Garcia's sentence [El Paso Times report], saying the court should have given him a harsher sentence for defrauding the state and depriving students of educational opportunities. Six other people allegedly helped Garcia organize the testing scheme.
The EPISD cheating scandal [El Paso Times backgrounder] has engendered a great deal of legal controversy in recent years. Earlier this week former Texas state senator Eliot Shapleigh [official website] argued [El Paso Times report] that Garcia should receive a harsher prison sentence than 42 months. In June it was revealed that Garcia received $54,000 in bonuses [El Paso Times report] for inflating the test scores of the EPISD. Earlier in June Garcia pleaded guilty to fraud [plea, PDF; El Paso Times report] relating to preventing students from taking standardized tests.