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Inspector General Condemns Reading First Program

Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington (CREW)
For Immediate Release:
February 22, 2007

Naomi Seligman Steiner - 202.408.5565 / press@citizensforethics.org

Report Supports CREW's Lawsuit

Washington, DC – Today, the Department of Education Inspector General (IG) released another in a series of reports highly critical of the Reading First program, part of the Bush administration’s signature “No Child Left Behind Act.” The program was originally intended to provide funds to states for reading initiatives under the theory that there were more effective ways to teach children to read. The Department set up Reading First panels, which made recommendations to the Secretary regarding how the money should be disbursed to states seeking the funds. To date, the Department has disbursed billions of dollars under the program.

Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington (CREW) is in litigation against the Department over its unlawful implementation of the Reading First program.

Last year, the IG issued a report harshly critical of the administration’s implementation of the Reading First program, finding that it was beset by cronyism. In response to that report, CREW filed a lawsuit on December 8, 2006 under the Federal Advisory Committee Act, challenging the failure of the Department of Education to follow federal laws that require that any federally created panels include balanced and representative viewpoints, hold open meetings and make their notes and records available to the public. The Reading First panels failed to abide by these statutory mandates.

Releasing yet another critical report, the IG found that the training programs set up by the Department to educate states about the Reading First program violated the prohibition against controlling individual school curricula by promoting specific reading materials and instructions to the financial of benefit companies – such as McGraw Hill and Voyager – headed by top Bush administration donors. The IG also found that the Department failed to adequately assess “issues of bias and objectivity” in approving technical assistance providers.

Melanie Sloan, CREW’s executive director, said of the IG report, “It is becoming increasingly clear that the Bush administration has been sacrificing the education of children to financially benefit a select group of loyalists and donors.” Sloan continued, “CREW has filed suit to force the Department of Education to come clean about the extent to which cronyism and corruption have permeated the Reading First panels, potentially depriving our nation’s highest risk children of the best possible reading materials.”

CREW’s lawsuit and related documents are available on CREW’s website.

— Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington
Press Release


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