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Neil Bush Still Has Scandal on a Short Leash

Ohanian Comment: One can only guess what the writer means by asserting that Ignite!'s mission appears be squeaky clean. Including a PR 'sell' from Ignite!'s website does not make the case. Interesting, isn't it that part of this 'sell' declares that the product is "built around the teacher." We could wish that instructional practices be built around the student.

Megan Barnett

Neil Bush is back in the news.

The brother of George, the president of the United States, of Jeb, the former governor of Florida, and of Marvin, the polished hedge fund manager, Neil has always been a bit of a black sheep. An article in the Washington Post once said that Neil's businesses "have a history of crashing and burning in spectacular fashion."

First, there was Silverado Savings and Loan. Bush served as a board member of the Denver-based financial firm when it got caught up in the S&L crisis during the 1980s, while Bush, Sr. was vice president. After Silverado collapsed, Bush paid to settle civil charges brought against him, and the debacle reportedly cost taxpayers $1 billion.

Fast-forward through the Neil Bush stories of sex scandals, questionable trades, voodoo practices, and lucrative consulting contracts to 2007. Today, Bush runs an educational software company called Ignite Learning that he launched in 1999 with the financial backing of his parents and other high-profile international investors.

Ignite sells curriculum-building software tools for middle schools. Its rather clunky web site could use a copy editor or two, but its mission appears be squeaky clean:

Ignite! Learning provides
comprehensive, motivational and
easy-to-use middle school
classroom curriculum proven to
increase achievement in Social
Studies, Science and Math.

Built around the teacher, our
curriculum solution is standards-
based, addresses diverse learning
styles, employs best practices and
makes teaching and learning fun.
--from http://www.ignitelearning.com

But now we learn that the inspector general of the Department of Education is investigating whether or not schools improperly used funds obtained through the No Child Left Behind Act to pay for the Ignite products. The very same No Child Left Behind Act, of course, that his brother signed into law shortly after arriving at 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue.

Critics argue that Ignite's products do not meet the standards of the No Child law, and that school districts in Texas, Florida, and Nevada buy the software for political consideration.

Ken Leonard, president of Ignite, said in a statement that it does not know when its customers use federal funds to buy its products. "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."

The same Post article said this about Bush: "Ah, it's nice to be Neil Bush, who seems to be living the lifestyle immortalized in those famous Dire Straits lyrics: "Money for nothin' and chicks for free.""

That's the way ya do it.

— Megan Barnett
Conde Nast Portfolio.com


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