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NCLB Outrages

Company run by Bush brother under scrutiny

By Stephanie Kirchgaessner

A company controlled by George W. Bush’s brother Neil is facing scrutiny by the US Department of Education, which is reviewing hundreds of thousands of dollars in federal funds the group has received under No Child Left Behind, the White House’s landmark education reform bill.

John Higgins, inspector-general of the Department of Education, said in a letter dated October 31 to advocacy group Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington (Crew), that his office would review allegations that Ignite Learning improperly received funds under No Child Left Behind for unproven educational products.

Ignite, which makes educational software, was founded in 1999 by Neil Bush with the backing of his father, former president George H.W.Bush, his mother Barbara and Boris Berezovsky, the Russian ­billionaire.

At the centre of the controversy surrounding Ignite is the use of federal funds for one of its core products, Curriculum on Wheels (Cow), a video projector and hard drive loaded with a year’s supply of Ignite social studies, science or maths curriculums. The product costs about $4,000 per unit and schools that wish to keep them for more than a year must pay an extra $1,000 licensing fee.

An investigation by Crew found that Ignite products did not meet standards required under No Child Left Behind but that school districts were nevertheless spending hundreds of thousands of dollars on the company’s products.

Ignite said in a statement on Wednesday that it welcomed accountability for ensuring public school expenditures and that it had not received any correspondence from the inspector general’s office. It said it believed the inspector general’s letter to Crew was a ”courteous reply”, pointing out that the letter did not mention any specific investigation.

”Ignite Learning has no knowledge of any customer that has procured our curriculum solutions through means which are other than completely ethical and in compliance with the typical guidelines of their various funding sources,” it said.

— Stephanie Kirchgaessner
Financial Times
2007-11-08


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