WASHINGTON - September 12 - Today, Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington (CREW) requested that the Department of Education’s Inspector General (IG) investigate why federal No Child Left Behind Act (NCLB) funds are being spent on educational products sold by Ignite! Learning, a company founded and headed by Neil Bush, President Bush’s younger brother.
Neil Bush, who has no education background, is best known for his role in the failure of Silverado Savings and Loan, which cost taxpayers $1.6 billion. CREW is asking the IG to discover why federal money is being funneled to a company with no proven track record of effectiveness, but so happens to be run by the president’s brother.
Congress has set rigorous standards for the types of educational approaches and products on which NCLB funds can be spent, but CREW’s research shows that Ignite! products do not meet those criteria. In fact, there is no scientific data, as defined by NCLB, supporting the effectiveness of Ignite!’s products.
CREW’s three-month investigation revealed that school districts are spending hundreds of thousands of dollars, including NCLB funds, on Ignite!’s Curriculum on Wheels (COW), a cart-mounted video projector and hard drive loaded with a year’s supply of Ignite!’s social studies, science, or math curricula. At a standard price of $3,800-$4,200 per unit, the COW is a very expensive device with limited use. A recent New York Times article about the use of the COW in Spotsylvania, Virginia, put the cost into perspective: each school in the district receives $1,000 "to cover all the lab supplies, equipment and other expenses connected with science for an entire year." Adding to the initial expense, schools must pay an annual $1,000 licensing, upkeep and upgrade fee in order to retain the COW for more than one year.
Melanie Sloan, executive director of CREW, said today, "It is astonishing that taxpayer dollars are being spent on unproven educational products to the financial benefit of the president’s brother. The IG should investigate whether children’s educations are being sacrificed so that Neil Bush can rake in federal funds."
"If Ignite! is to continue receiving NCLB funding, its products must be held to NCLB’s stringent standards. With the education of our nation’s students at stake, we hope that the IG spearheads an audit immediately."
Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington (CREW) is a non-profit legal watchdog group dedicated to holding public officials accountable for their actions.
For more information, please visit www.citizensforethics.org or contact Naomi Seligman Steiner at firstname.lastname@example.org.