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NCLB Outrages

Dick and Jane go bad

Note that this editorial points out that the scandal predates Margaret Spellings. But Prof. Jim Horn reminds us that Margaret LaMontagne (Spellings) was Bush's chief domestic policy advisor before she became Secretary of Education, and in 2000 she was spokesperson for Reading First and education advisor even before Bush was appointed President, when she and Lyon and Carnine's Oregon mafia built the infrastructure for the crackpot con game that would become the Reading First we now know about.


READING FIRST was supposed to be a fairy tale of a US Department of Education program that ushered children into the wonderful world of reading. Instead, it become a dark fable about corrupt government officials and conflicts of interest.

Once upon a time in 2001, Congress made a legal wish that no child be left behind. Since then, Congress has given nearly $5 billion to states to help children, from kindergarten to third grade, improve their reading.

States submitted applications and 16 panels of experts decided which ones to fund.

Unfortunately, the program was run by a dark wizard, grimly known as the ``director."

The director skirted federal rules. He expected states to meet standards that weren't required by law. He hid useful information. When states applied for money and didn't get it, the director often did not tell them why, even though the expert panels had often made suggestions that could have helped states with future applications.

Sadly, the panels of experts were tainted, staffed in part by obsequious winged monkeys. Some were chosen by the director because they supported a particular commercial reading product that promotes Direct Instruction. States were pressed to use this product.

When complaints were made that the panels were unfairly stacked, the director said that he was ``shocked" in the smirking Claude-Rains- in-Casablanca sense of the word, to find gambling -- or in this case politically stacked panels -- in this establishment. Indeed, the director himself had in the past promoted the Direct Instruction product.

To discourage states that wanted to use different products, the director e-mailed a Department of Education staff member asking for nasty reviews of these products. The e-mail said:

``They are trying to crash our party and we need to beat the [expletive] out of them in front of all the other would-be party crashers who are standing on the front lawn waiting to see how we welcome these dirtbags."

So much for civil speech and free markets.

Fortunately, people complained. The education department's inspector general investigated and exposed the truth. Other investigations are underway. And a metaphorical house has fallen on the director, Christopher Doherty. His education department career is over.

The mess predates US Education Secretary Margaret Spellings, who says she's going to clean house. But the story won't end until it is clear that the Education Department can weed out warped bureaucrats in the future and ensure that federal dollars are properly spent on the literacy needs of children.

— editorial
Boston Globe


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