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Once Again, Bush Administration Puts Cronies Ahead of Taxpayers and Schoolchildren

Ohanian Comment: And so why have the Democrats remained silent for so long? Why has George Miller ignored the many revelations concerned scholars, researchers, and teachers sent him? Somehow, he sounds like he's on auto-pilot here.

by George Miller, Ranking Member, Education & the Workforce Committee

WASHINGTON, D.C. – The Bush administration pushed local school districts across the country to use a reading curriculum that had been developed by a company with close political and financial ties to the administration despite concerns about the quality of the curriculum and despite the fact that, in some cases, states sought to use other curricula, according to the results of an independent government investigation released today. As a result, the investigation concluded that the Bush administration violated the No Child Left Behind federal education law.

Rep. George Miller (D-CA), the senior Democrat on the House Education and the Workforce Committee, said that the report shows that it’s time for the Department of Education – which last year admitted that it had paid media commentators hundreds of thousands of dollars to produce covert propaganda – to clean house.

“Corrupt cronies at the Department of Education wasted taxpayer dollars on an inferior reading curriculum for kids that was developed by a company headed by a Bush friend and campaign contributor,” said Miller. “Instead of putting children first, they chose to put their cronies first. Enough is enough. President Bush and Secretary Spellings must take responsibility and do a wholesale housecleaning at the Education Department.

“Everyone at the Department of Education who was involved in perpetrating this fraud on school districts should be fired – not suspended, not reassigned, not admonished, but fired. This was not an accident. This was a concerted effort to corrupt the process on behalf of partisan supporters, and taxpayers and schoolchildren are the ones who got harmed by it,” said Miller.

The investigation, conducted by the Department of Education’s Inspector General, found that the Department of Education made states’ funding under the federal Reading First program contingent on their using a reading curriculum developed by McGraw-Hill, Inc. or one from a short list of commercial reading programs. The report concluded that the Department of Education had stacked peer review panels, ignored federal statutes, and manipulated state and local reading curriculum selection procedures to steer grants to its favored venders. More than $5 billion has been spent on Reading First since 2002.

McGraw-Hill’s Chairman and CEO, Harold McGraw III, and its Chairman Emeritus, Harold McGraw Jr., contributed a total of over $23,000 to the Republican National Committee and to President Bush’s campaigns between 1999 and 2006. The Bush and McGraw families have been personally and professionally close since the 1930’s, according to published reports.

The scathing IG report was released just as another IG report, from the Department of Housing and Urban Development, concluded that HUD Secretary Alphonso Jackson had instructed department employees to direct federal grants and contracts to organizations politically friendly to the Bush administration. And it comes one day after the New York Times reported that the Interior Department prevented four federal auditors from collecting royalties from oil companies that had been cheating U.S. taxpayers. The Interior Department’s Inspector General recently told Congress that “Simply stated, short of a crime, anything goes at the highest levels of the Department of the Interior.”

“Department after department in the Bush administration is infested with corruption, and the American people are paying the price,” said Miller. “The American people demand accountability and need a new direction so that their interests and not the corrupt interests are served by this government.”

Miller urged the Republican leaders of the House Education and the Workforce Committee to hold immediate hearings into the findings of the IG report – but he said he did not hold out much hope that such hearings would be scheduled. Miller had previously requested a Government Accountability Office review of Reading First; that report is forthcoming.

“The Republican Congress is a giant rubber stamp for the administration. They always have been, and as long as they are in power, they always will be,” said Miller.

— George Miller


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