The Justice Department is conducting a probe of a $6 billion reading initiative at the center of President Bush's No Child Left Behind law, another blow to a program besieged by allegations of financial conflicts of interest and cronyism, people familiar with the matter said yesterday.I doubt this news surprises anyone. On Wednesday evening Bill Moyers will expose how the media were intimidated by the Bush administration and corporate agents called "patriotism police".
The disclosure came as a congressional hearing revealed how people implementing the $1 billion-a-year Reading First program made at least $1 million off textbooks and tests toward which the federal government steered states.
"That sounds like a criminal enterprise to me," said Rep. George Miller (D-Calif.), chairman of the House education committee, which held a five-hour investigative hearing. "You don't get to override the law," he angrily told a panel of Reading First officials. "But the fact of the matter is that you did."
The Education Department's inspector general, John P. Higgins Jr., said he has made several referrals to the Justice Department about the five-year-old program, which provides grants to improve reading for children in kindergarten through third grade.
Higgins declined to offer more specifics, but Christopher J. Doherty, former director of Reading First, said in an interview that he was questioned by Justice officials in November. The civil division of the U.S. attorney's office for the District, which can bring criminal charges, is reviewing the matter.
Doherty, one of the two Education Department employees who oversaw the initiative, acknowledged yesterday that his wife had worked for a decade as a paid consultant for a reading program, Direct Instruction, that investigators said he improperly tried to force schools to use. He repeatedly failed to disclose the conflict on financial disclosure forms.
"I'm very proud of this program and my role in this program," Doherty said in the interview. "I think it's been implemented in accordance with the law."
The management of Reading First has come under attacks from members of both parties. Federal investigators say program officials improperly forced states to use certain tests and textbooks created by those officials.
One official, Roland H. Good III, said his company made $1.3 million off a reading test, known as DIBELS, that was endorsed by a Reading First evaluation panel he sat on. Good, who owns half the company, Dynamic Measurement Group, told the committee that he donated royalties from the product to the University of Oregon, where he is an associate professor.
Two former University of Oregon researchers on the panel, Edward J. Kame'enui and Deborah C. Simmons, said they received about $150,000 in royalties last year for a program that is now packaged with DIBELS. They testified that they received smaller royalties in previous years for the program, Scott Foresman Early Reading Intervention, and did not know it was being sold with DIBELS.
The ham-fisted dictatorial atmosphere under which Bush ruled this country for almost five years was clear to many of us. We knew
The disgraceful press reaction to Colin Powell's presentation at the United Nations seems like something out of Monty Python, with one key British report cited by Powell being nothing more than a student's thesis, downloaded from the Web - with the student later threatening to charge U.S. officials with "plagiarism."
Phil Donahue recalls that he was told he could not feature war dissenters alone on his MSNBC talk show and always had to have "two conservatives for every liberal." Moyers resurrects a leaked NBC memo about Donahue's firing that claimed he "presents a difficult public face for NBC in a time of war. At the same time our competitors are waving the flag at every opportunity."
Moyers also throws some stats around: In the year before the invasion William Safire (who predicted a "quick war" with Iraqis cheering their liberators) wrote "a total of 27 opinion pieces fanning the sparks of war." The Washington Post carried at least 140 front-page stories in that same period making the administration's case for attack. In the six months leading to the invasion the Post would "editorialize in favor of the war at least 27 times."
Of the 414 Iraq stories broadcast on NBC, ABC and CBS nightly news in the six months before the war, almost all could be traced back to sources solely in the White House, Pentagon or State Dept., Moyers tells Russert, who offers no coherent reply.
The war happens to represent the most deadly, misguided, criminal, and wrong behavior by this administration but my contention is that this philosophy, behavior and political impetus was used to sell NCLB as well..
NCLB, like Bush's vendetta with Saddam in Iraq, is a fraud. It is pseudo-science intended to appease tax-payers, shut up educators, and seed political contribution kick-backs of one kind or another from education publishing houses.
Sadly, Ted Kennedy, a man I admire, has been snookered into thinking this program has merit. The sugar-coated platitudes deserve our aspirations. The program itself needs to be ended before Bush does for our children's career what he's done for Rich Little's.