West Virginians claim a non-profit group that promised to teach the busted up coal state to code is nothing more than a fraud preying on coal workers, The New York Times reported Sunday.
Over two dozen former students are suing Mined Minds, arguing that the non-profit group, which they say touted itself as West Virginia’s savior, is mostly just a fraud. Only one person out of ten people who entered the program manged to graduate. He is now delivering takeout, according to the NYT report.
“It was a too-good-to-be-true kind of deal,” Billyjack Buzzard, the only former West Virginia coal miner to finish classes and get a job with the program, told TheNYT. He was fired after a year. “Just false hope.” Other people who jumped aboard the program said they had similar experiences.
“I get angry at people who go to other places and say, ‘My culture is better than theirs and I am going to change it,’” Katie Bolyard, a college graduate who took a class, said about the people she believes are behind the Mined Mind idea. It’s not your life you’re messing with,” she added, referring to people who supposedly tinker with West Virginia without considering the cultural impact.
“Every single one of them” finds work, Mined Minds’ founder Amanda Laucher claimed in a 2017 interview. “They all find a job.” This claim was an exaggeration, students say. They described Mined Minds, which received little in financial support, as an erratic operation, where firings were inevitable, leaving West Virginians stuck in the same jobs they left behind.
The program itself was splotchy at best, the report notes. Students were never given a syllabus, for instance. They were given an assignment and effectively told to figure it out, mostly by themselves. Several former students say instructors told them to use Google if they have questions. Students also worried the program’s instructors had only a partial grasp on the subjects they were teaching.
“They’re coming here promising stuff that they don’t deliver,” Roger Frame, a West Virginia coal worker, told TheNYT. “People do that all the time. They’ve always done it to Appalachians.” Frame’s wife, Stephanie Frame, was a Mined Minds student who was fired in November 2018 after she got drunk at a conference financed by the group.
Democrats hyped the idea of transitioning coal country to the tech industry. Coal mine employment fell 12 percent in 2015 to its lowest level since the Department of Energy began collecting such data in 1978. West Virginia and Kentucky, for instance. saw coal mine jobs fall 16 percent and 17 percent, respectively.
Both states went overwhelmingly for President Donald Trump, who campaigned to save the coal industry. He won nearly 63 percent of the vote in Kentucky and just shy of 69 percent of votes in West Virginia. Trump’s coat-tails in Kentucky were so strong that Republicans took control of the state’s legislature for the first time since 1921.
Coal exports have exploded in recent years even as power stations go offline. Analysts expect that U.S. coal exports reached 116 million short tons (MMst) in 2018, the highest level in nearly five years.
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