Google Ads

Monday, April 30, 2007

Cronyism Affecting Reading Programs

It won't be often that I go on a political rant, but this was too aggravating not to. Startling enough is the large number of non-USA visitors to my blog. My apologies to them because what follows is USA-specific politics; however, it might raise its head in your countries, so you should be aware of the problem.

In the Kansas City Star newspaper yesterday, April 29th, there was a front page story about the Kansas City School District's recent denial of a grant request from our Federal government's Department of Education. They had asked for assistance with a reading program entitled "Success for All" designed by Robert Slavin of John Hopkins University in Baltimore. The House Education Committee is looking into whether the Bush administration steered contracts to its favorite vendors, shutting out Slavin and others.

As always, when it comes to politics, follow the money trail. The pot of gold in this case is a $6 billion Federal grant program known as "Reading First." Complaints began back in 2005, at which time a panel of experts was formed to review grant applications. Three of these experts had a conflict of interest in that they were owners/developers of another reading system called DIBELS (Dynamic Indicators of Basic Early Learning Skills). These three had profited to the tune of almost $1.5 million because of its selection as the vendor of choice. Of course, the powers that be are saying there was no wrong doing.

My state of Kansas requires voters register either as a Republican or a Democrats only, even though I am an independent; therefore, I'm a registered Republican. As a social conservative and an economic liberal (part of the time), I find this kind of cronyism to be abhorrent, especially when our children's futures are at stake. Nine of my 25 years working for the Federal government was spent testing and evaluating military systems and concepts in the field as used by typical soldiers. My evaluations judged both the tested system and its testing process with hundreds of millions of development dollars at stake. Sometimes I found myself having to defend my evaluations against intense pressures from General Officers and high ranking civilians who were trying to ram through their programs, whether they worked or not. We kept the system honest and above board. It's too bad the above expert committee wasn't run the same way as the military test and evaluation process. This saddens me greatly.

No comments: