Day care loses $20K over troubled voucher program

TUCKER, Ga. — A DeKalb County day care lost tens of thousands of dollars after a voucher program promising to help parents didn't pay up.

Channel 2 investigative reporter Aaron Diamant broke the story Friday and has spent several days trying to track down Paul Parker, who runs the Buckhead company that administers the voucher program.

Meanwhile, it has been a frustrating few months for the Kids R Kids Academy in Tucker.

"It's just one excuse after another," said owner Annette Lee.

Lee is hoping to recoup about $20,000 she said her day care lost after the S.T.A.R.T. voucher program, which promises to help Georgia parents pay for child care, didn't pay up.

"We went two months without revenue and just the money wasn't there," Lee said. "I mean, we did the best that we could."

Families who needed financial aid were told to write checks for half their monthly fees directly to California nonprofit the Use the News Foundation. The day care was supposed to receive a voucher for the full amount for each child.

Parents were told the difference would be made up by wealthy donors eager for tax breaks. The program is administered through Parker's Pioneer Capital Advisors in Buckhead. It is still unclear what happened to the thousands of dollars that parents mailed for the program.

On Friday, Diamant went looking for Parker at his Buckhead office but had no luck. Pioneer Capital's business records on file with the Georgia Secretary of State's Office show Parker runs another company called Askox Capital Holdings in Tucker, but when Diamant went to that office, he found it empty.
When Diamant finally reached Parker by phone, Parker turned down repeated requests for an on-camera interview.

On Monday, Parker sent Diamant an email saying, "We were working to rectify this situation … Any outstanding obligations will be paid expediently … We regret any misunderstanding and inconveniences this has caused."

A representative for Kids R Kids' corporate office told Diamant three or four of its other centers are having similar problems getting paid from Parker's program.

In previous emails to Diamant, Parker blamed the delay on his inability to raise enough matching funds from donors to keep up with the program's rapid growth.

The Georgia Secretary of State's Office is now reviewing the case.