A scathing report issued today documents "substantial financial ties" between key advisors of Reading First, a controversial federal reading grant program, and publishers who benefited from the program.
The report, issued by Sen. Edward Kennedy, D-Mass., chairman of the Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee, called the findings "troublesome because they diminish the integrity of the Reading First program."
Reading First is a multi-billion-dollar program meant to boost literacy among low-income children that was adopted as part of No Child Left Behind in 2001.
The Kennedy report centers on four directors of the Reading First Technical Assistance Centers, who, the report says, were highly influential in advising states on which reading programs to adopt in order to qualify for federal funds.
According to the report, the directors had "extensive ties with education publishers" at the same time they were responsible for evaluating other publishers' programs. The report concluded that such ties may have "improperly influenced actions."
Dr. Edward Kame'enui, the director of the Western Technical Assistance Center, was found to have received more than $400,000 from publisher Scott Foresman after authoring a reading program that was widely adopted by schools under Reading First.
While acting as a Reading First director, Kame'enui's contract with Scott Foresman required him to attend and speak at "a minimum of six sales-related workshops or presentations per year" on behalf of the publisher.
Dr. Kame'enui declined to talk to ABC News but acknowledged in a recent House hearing that he was on the Scott Foresman payroll while advising states on Reading First.
Today's report follows six investigations by the Department of Education's inspector general that found bias, mismanagement and conflicts of interest in the implementation of Reading First.
House Education and Labor Committee Chairman George Miller, D-Calif., has called for a criminal investigation of Reading First by the Justice Department. According to Miller, the conflicts of interest uncovered "raises questions about criminal activity and criminal intent about what a number of these players were doing."
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