Bush Administration: an 'F' for Reading Program

OIG Review Questions Ethics in Reading First Program

The Office of the Inspector General (OIG) has released a scathing audit, an internal review of the Bush administration's billion-dollar-a-year Reading First program. The report says that the Education Department ignored the law and ethical standards to steer money how it wanted.

This is the correct, undoctored photo of President Bush reading the book with the school girl. The doctored version showed the book upside down in the President's hands.

State educational agencies have received over $4.8 billion in Reading First grants, helping about 5,600 schools. The program is reported to have served more than 1.7 million students in kindergarten through third grade.

Recently U.S. Secretary of Education Margaret Spellings announced awards of $101,687,216 in grants to 32 recipients in 25 states, the objective being to improve the language and early literacy skills of young children.

The OIG audit doesn't hold back in its view that the Reading First program is riddled with mismanagement and has more that its share of conflicts of interest. It also suggested that laws may have been broken in that the department dictated to schools which curriculum they must use.

The Office of the Inspector General (OIG) released its audit on September 22, 2006, and it's listed as ED-OIG/I13-F0017. You can read the entire document here in Adobe Acrobat .pdf format or as a Microsoft Word .doc file.

When one read's the audit report, a particular individual is noted repeatedly (over 100 times), but not by name, but the title of Reading First Director. The person holding that title within the Department of Education was Chris Doherty.

The audit report says that program review panels were stacked with people who shared the director's views and that only favored publishers of reading curricula could get money.

Chris Doherty, Reading First Director

In one e-mail, Director Doherty told a staff member to come down hard on a company he didn't support. The report states that Doherty wrote, "They are trying to crash our party, and we need to beat the [expletive deleted] out of them in front of all the other would-be party crashers who are standing on the front lawn waiting to see how we welcome these dirtbags."

Education Secretary Margaret Spellings said that the Department will adopt all the audit's recommendations quickly. She also pledged a review of every single Reading First grant her agency has approved.

Reading first is crown jewel of No Child Left Behind, President Bush's education law. Its goal is to help young children read through scientifically proven programs. A separate review recently found that the effort is helping schools raise achievement.

From the start, the program has been hit by a number of accusations of impropriety, which lead to several ongoing audits. The new audit from the OIG raised serious questions with the program's credibility.

Rep. George Miller (D-CA), the ranking Democrat on the House Education and the Workforce Committee, was angry and blunt in expressing his feelings about the report, stating, "Everyone at the Department of Education who was involved in perpetrating this fraud on school districts should be fired – not suspended, not reassigned, not admonished, but fired. This was not an accident. This was a concerted effort to corrupt the process on behalf of partisan supporters, and taxpayers and schoolchildren are the ones who got harmed by it."

Secretary Spellings stated that the problems unearthed in the report occurred in the early days of the program, which began in 2002, before she was secretary. She also noted that those responsible have already left the agency or been reassigned.

The OIG's audit found that the department:

  • Botched the way it picked a panel to review grant applications, raising questions over whether grants were approved as the law requires.
  • Screened grant reviewers for conflicts of interest, but then failed to identify six who had a clear conflict based on their industry connections.
  • Did not let states see the comments of experts who reviewed their applications.
  • Required states to meet conditions that weren't part of the law.
  • Tried to downplay elements of the law it didn't like when working with states.

As noted earlier, the audit doesn't name Doherty, referring to him as the Reading First Director. It says he repeatedly used his influence to steer money toward states that used a reading approach he favored called Direct Instruction (DI).

The OIG investigation found that four states (New York, Nevada, Virginia, and Connecticut) and one territory (Puerto Rico) were awarded grants, even though their final applications on record show a Chair Panel Summary rating of "Disapproval."

The audit also faults other officials who had a big hand in Reading First, including Susan B. Neuman, the former assistant secretary of elementary and secondary education.

Spellings, who became secretary in 2005, said she is not aware of any effort to favor certain reading programs. "I'm doing everything I can at this point," she said. "I can't undo what's been done."

This isn't the first time that questions have been raised about this issue. Robert Slavin, a Johns Hopkins University education professor who co-founded the Success for All Foundation and spent years researching effective reading programs, said he watched in disbelief as the nonprofit lost business because states chose to adopt other programs favored by U.S. officials.

Slavin is said to have prompted the federal investigation by going to the inspector general in May last year and telling authorities what he thought was going on. "There is nothing in the report that we haven't been saying for two years," Slavin said yesterday. "It is a vindication of sorts."

Mr. Doherty recently resigned from the department to “return to the private sector,” Katherine McLane, a department spokeswoman said. Doherty has declined to comment.

Expect to hear more on this topic over the coming weeks and months, for this just may be the tip of a very large iceberg, so to speak.

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Kids' Books for Our New Age

Books for young children seem to be changing.

Books for kids are changing, and bedtime stories aren't about little bears, frogs that get kissed or magic dragons. Here's a new title: Help! Mom! There Are Liberals Under My Bed!

Help! Mom! There Are Liberals Under My Bed! by Katharine DeBrecht, a freelance newspaper reporter, the mother of three and a member of the South Carolina Federation of Republican Women. Click here for more information...

Before you go any further, take a close look at the characters and items illustrated on the book's cover. You can see a larger version here.

The publishers state:

"This news-making book is a fun way for parents to teach young children the valuable lessons of conservatism. Written in simple text, readers can follow along with Tommy and Lou as they open a lemonade stand to earn money for a swing set. But when liberals start demanding that Tommy and Lou pay half their money in taxes, take down their picture of Jesus, and serve broccoli with every glass of lemonade, the young brothers experience the downside to living in Liberaland."

Liberaland? Had to do a search on that one, as it was a new term to this writer. Am obviously not a member of the Conservative in-crowd.

One reviewer was quite up front in that "this book is not for a liberal or even a moderate. You will find unashamed conservatism being pushed in this book." Another stated that the book was a "funny modern parable about two boys running a lemonade stand in Liberaland," that the "heroes are honest, God-fearing, and hard working," and that the "villains are tax-raising, religion-stomping, control freaks." The reviewer continued with "But don't worry. This is a children's book."

A children's book? OK, if they say so. And it's been endorsed by none other than Rush Limbaugh himself - isn't that just dandy? Wonder if it was his choice in reading material during those trips to and from the Dominican Republic.

The author is Katharine DeBrecht, a freelance newspaper reporter, the mother of three and a member of the South Carolina Federation of Republican Women. Her publisher even offers for sale a tie-in Hillary Clinton mousepad, along with the requisite Conservative mugs, refrigerator magnets, bibs, t-shirts and such things.

In the other side of the fence, a professor, self proclaimed diehard liberal and political activist by the name of Jeremy Zilber has written a book of his own entitled Why Mommy is a Democrat. He was so committed to the need for such a response that he financed its publication himself. It's a short book, and obviously by the language one for very young children, but it tries to get its points across in simple fashion, with pages that declare:

  • Democrats make sure everyone is treated fairly,
    just like Mommy does.
  • Democrats make sure sick people are able to see a doctor,
    just like Mommy does.
  • Democrats make sure everyone plays by the rules,
    just like Mommy does.
  • Democrats make sure we all share our toys,
    just like Mommy does.

A BuzzFlash review stated that it's "the ideal traditional children's nighttime tale"' and that "... unlike 'Help! Mom! There Are Liberals Under My Bed!', it's true!" They went on to say that it's "... great for reading to your children or as a gift to nieces, nephews, cousins or friends with young kids. Just make sure that they are Democrats."

They go on to state that Republicans will surely regard such concepts as "Democrats make sure everyone plays by the rules, just like Mommy does" and "Democrats make sure we all share our toys, just like Mommy does" as "subversive" and "Pinko."

Wait a minute, it's fine that we all learn to share our toys, but that raises certain questions:

  1. Who buys the toys?
  2. How is the money earned to buy the toys?
  3. Does being a Democrat make you a better “sharer” than a Republican or Libertarian? Now explain your answers.

There's something disturbing about about both of these books, for they seem to be aimed at kids who are just starting to read, if even that. Evidently I'm not alone in my observations, either. Are we supposed to read books like these to our kids every night? Are we expected to politically indoctrinating them in one of the following adult bias patterns on a daily basis:

[ ] Republicans - they are knee-jerk fundamentalists
[ ] Democrats - they hate God and American values
[ ] Libertarians - they are weird.
[ ] All of the above - they all suck but so does life
[ ] None of the above - can't kids be allowed to enjoy childhood.

Feeding the minds of young children with political propaganda isn't new. I had a very uneasy feeling that somewhere back in the 1930s, young German children were being read some kids' version of Adolph Hitler's Mein Kampf as a bedtime book.

Upon looking I found that it was far worse than I expected.

There was a plethora of anti-Semitic books for children written by a variety of authors, but one that comes to the foremost is Elwira Bauer's, Trau keinem Fuchs auf grüner Heid und keinem Jüd auf seinem Eid (Nuremberg: Stürmer Verlag, 1936). This title in English is Trust No Fox on his Green Heath And No Jew on his Oath, and it has been translated.

Then there is Ernst Hiemer's Der Giftpilz (Nuremberg, Stürmer Verlag, 1938). This has also been translated as Ernst Hiemer's "Der Giftpilz" (The Poisonous Mushroom) was one of three extremely anti-Semitic books aimed specifically at children that came from Julius Streicher's publishing house in the 1930s. More info here...The Poisonous Mushroom. Both of these extremely anti-Semitic books came from none other than Julius Streicher's publishing house. If you're unfamiliar with Julius Streicher, he was the publisher of Der Stürmer, the newspaper that was a part of the Nazi propaganda machine. An almost fanatical Nazi, he was convicted after the war of crimes against humanity and executed. The neo-Nazis of today consider him to be a martyr. Read the text from the books above and see how you feel about his martyrdom.

I previously wrote about a contemporary mother named April Gaede, and how she has influenced the lives of her daughters Lamb and Lynx, the adolescent twin girls who make up the girl group known as Prussian Blue. She is said to have indoctrinated them in her own neo-Nazi beliefs since birth, and now her adolescent daughters have a political perspective that's is definitely very tolerant nor is it middle-of-the-road.

Am I alone in my being disturbed by these books and what they teach our children? Apparently not, because a number of them have been expressing their feelings, and quite openly.

When do we just teach our children simple values of right and wrong, the Golden Rule and the simple things like that? Why do political values, and yes, even hatred, have to be instilled into our kids at such a young age?

Out of the choices above, I'll personally opt for the last one.

Our lexidiem is Liberaland.

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A 9/11 Tribute to LTJG Darin H. Pontel, USN

This 2,996 Tribute is dedicated to Darin Howard Pontell

When Darin Pontell was 14, he decided that he would join the Navy. Lt. Darin H. Pontell, USN  Photo Hosted at BuzznetHis older brother Steven was a Navy pilot, and he was killed in a crash on the USS Lexington off Pensacola, Florida in 1989.

"When that happened, Darin mentioned that he'd like to pick up where his brother Steven left off, to complete the circle," his father, Gary Pontell, said.

Darin Pontell, a native of Arlington Heights who moved with his family to Baltimore in 1985, graduated with honors from the U.S. Naval Academy in Annapolis in 1999. Photo Hosted at BuzznetUpon graduation, he reported to the Navy and Marine Corps Intelligence Training Command in Dam Neck, VA. He was assigned to Carrier Air Wing Seven as the Collections Officer. He was later deployed to the Mediterranean Sea and the Persian Gulf aboard the USS Dwight D. Eisenhower. He received the Armed Forces Expeditionary Medal, Naval Commendation Medal, Navy Achievement Medal and National Defense Service Medal.

Lt. Pontell married Devora Sue Wolk, a lawyer, in March 2001. He began working at the Pentagon in April and celebrated his 26th birthday that August. He and his new bride lived in Gaithersburg, MD.

"He was thoughtful and generous and wanted to make everyone around him happy," said Devora. " He would do whatever it took to make his family and friends smile."

He was completing his second night of training in a new position with the Chief of Naval Operations Intelligence Plot at the Pentagon on September 11th, 2001. He and six colleagues were piecing together information about the attacks on the World Trade Center when American Airlines Flight 77, a highjacked Boeing 757, crashed into the Pentagon at 9:37 AM. The jet aircraft slammed into the west side of the Pentagon, where the CNO-IP office was located.

Photo Hosted at Buzznet

"When he returned to the Pentagon, we felt he was so safe," his father said. "Who would have thought of the Pentagon as a target?"

"He was a good kid. He liked athletics," his grandfather said, and described him as "a computer wizard. He was smart. He had an awful lot of friends."

"I had known my husband since we were about 11," stated his wife Devora. "All he wanted to do was go to the Naval Academy like his older brother, but it was a challenge for him to get in and make it through the four years and graduate with honors. And this is his Naval Academy ring that he wore every day, that marked his accomplishment; he accomplished something that he had set his mind to when he was so young. He was proud to be a Naval Academy graduate and an officer in the U.S. Navy.”

Before Darin Pontell went to the Naval Academy, he worked with his father, an architect, who was left with one son, Michael, now 38.

"Darin and his brother Mike were my best friends," Gary Pontell said shortly after the attack on the Pentagon. "And being that both of them were such family people, we always spent a lot of time together. That's what I'm going to miss. The Sunday afternoons and Sunday evenings. I'm going to miss the phone calls."

It can only be presumed that Lt. Pontell and his colleagues were killed immediately. He was posthumously awarded the Purple Heart Medal.

Darin Pontell was buried next to his brother in the Baltimore Hebrew Congregation Cemetery.

He is fondly remembered by former shipmates and many others.

2,996 A tribute to the victims of 9/11  Photo Hosted at Buzznet

Please visit these other 2,996 Tributes that we and some of our friends have created:

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Barbaro Burgers? Not this week!

Those hungry for horsemeat won't get their wish this week

On Thursday the House of Representatives passed , the bill that bans horse slaughter in the United State. The bill passed by a vote of 263 to 146, despite amendments submitted by House Agriculture Committee Chairman Bob Goodlatte to weaken the measure.

H.R. 503, the bill that bans horse slaughter in the United State, passes the house vote - thanks, FlyingFilly!  Photo Hosted at Buzznet

The issue was simple: about 90,000 horses are sent each year to three plants in this country (two in Texas and one in Illinois, all foreign owned), where they're slaughtered and the meat is shipped to restaurants in Europe and Asia.

Basashi is restaurant-grade horsement, a delicacy in Japan. Looks tasty, doesn't? And it just might have come from the USA!   Photo Hosted at BuzznetThough some complained about the priority of this legislation, 263 lawmakers voted for the horse bill in the final tally, with only 146 daring to say "nay."

The administration has stated that they opposed the bill in a letter sent to the House of Representatives' Committee on Agriculture. This may be an issue that will have to be dealt with when the bill goes before the U.S. Senate as S.1915.

The Livestock Marketing Association (LMA) also opposes the horse slaughter ban. LMA Director of Information John McBride said he's concerned Congress won’t stop at banning horse slaughter, and said opponents of the ban will work to keep it off the Senate's agenda.

So congratulations go out to all those who contacted their respective Representatives and let their thoughts be known. And thanks go out to all of those 263 members of our Congress who thought about the issue and listened to their constituents.

And a special thanks goes to FlyingFilly.com and all the resources they put together to help all of us better understand the issues and the actions that can be taken.

You have all proven that our system works!

Our lexidiem is .

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Barbaro Burgers Legal after Thursday?

Those hungry for horsemeat may get their wish this week

Just check out these 9/7/2006 headlines, and read this in the text:

One fast food franchise has already applied for the name "Barbaro Burgers" as a trademark, and expects to be selling horse burgers before November 1st.

Very few horsemeat producing countries specifically raise horses for meat. Instead they use ex-racehorses, riding horses, horses sold at auction by unaware owners, and also stolen ones.  Photo Hosted at Buzznet

Horrifying, isn't it? OK, this is a fictitious copy of a fictitious newspaper. 2006 Kentucky Derby Winner Barbaro is not going to be slaughtered because of his injuries. You're not going to be finding "Barbaro Burgers" on the menu of your local fast-food restaurant this weekend.

But could it happen? Yes, and here's why.

Up before the U.S. House of Representatives this week is a bill known as H.R. 503, The American Horse Slaughter Prevention Act, a bill to to "prohibit the shipping, transporting, moving, delivering, receiving, possessing, purchasing, selling, or donation of horses and other equines to be slaughtered for human consumption, and for other purposes."

The American Horse Slaughter Prevention Act (AHSPA) is scheduled to go before the House on September 7, 2006. Simply put, its a bill to end the slaughter of horses for human consumption in the United States and the export of live horses for the same purpose.

The bill has been reintroduced in the House of Representatives by Congressional Horse Caucus Co- Chair John Sweeney (R-NY), Representative John Spratt (D-SC) and Representative Ed Whitfield (R-KY). Senator and veterinarian John Ensign (R-NV) and Senator Mary Landrieu (D-LA) have reintroduced an identical measure in the Senate.

This sounds fine, except that there are currently no guarantees that this bill is going to pass. The has been involved, and has sent out an urgent alert letting people know that this potential legislation needs the support of people like all of us. SAPL is the oldest non-profit organization in the United States specifically dedicated to the passage and promotion of federal, international and local legislation to ensure and protect animal welfare.

Paula Bacon, the Mayor of the small town of Kaufman, Texas, has been fighting to get the nearby Dallas Crown Inc. slaughter mill to close. Some families in the area say that odors from Dallas Crown keep them indoors. The plant and its Belgian owners have survived numerous attempts to close it in recent years. Bill H.R.503 would Basashi is restaurant-grade horsement, a delicacy in Japan. Looks tasty, doesn't? And it just might have come from the USA!  Photo Hosted at Buzznetshutter Dallas Crown and other slaughter plants in Fort Worth, TX and DeKalb, Il. Horse meat is not marketed as table fare in the US, but the slaughter plants process hundreds of horses each week and ship the meat overseas. Horse meat (pictured here) is considered a delicacy in some European countries, Japan and other places.

Noted Texans, such as oil tycoon T. Boone Pickens and country singer and gubernatorial hopeful Kinky Freidman have been activists on this issue for some time, accusing the slaughter plants of cruelly killing even young horses and call the processing operations an un-American slaughter of a cultural symbol. Nelson sat down recently with Bo Derek, Morgan Fairchild and Jennifer Lee Pryor and openly discussed this brutal practice which must be ended. There are many others who have come out in support of ending this often brutal slaughter.

So what can be done about it, and when?

FlyingFilly.com has put together a marvelous set of resources and facts to help you better understand the issues at hand and the actions that can be taken. Take a moment and see exactly where your representative stands on this, then contact your representatives directly and let them know how you feel. Read what Equine Advocates has to say about this issue and what you can do.

But whatever you decide, do it before September 7th, or you might be explaining fast-food signs like this to your kids in the near future.

Wow! An big Barbaro Burger lunch special! Doesn't a horsemeat burger sound good for lunch today?  Photo Hosted at Buzznet

It's in your hands - there's still time for you to act.

Our lexidiem is .

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