Get financial conflicts out of ed programs
A report has found that contractors earned significant money from publishers whose products they were suggesting schools buy.
A LACK of conflict-of-interest rules that allowed U.S. Department of Education contractors to profit handsomely while advising schools
on buying reading program materials in which they had financial stakes should be corrected.
Contractors might not have violated any laws, but the questionable practice already has led to the removal of top officials in the Reading First program.
A new report from Sen. Edward Kennedy, D-Mass., detailed how four officials contracted to advise schools, including public schools in Hawaii, earned significant sums of money from program publishers.
Among them is a former Hawaii man, Edward Kame'enui, who in 2001 assisted the state DOE in choosing materials. Kame'enui, now a commissioner in the federal DOE's special education research center, earned royalties of more than $750,000, the Washington Post reported, while another took in more than $1.2 million.
None was covered by conflict-of-interest rules because they were not federal employees, but Kennedy said their simultaneous occupations damaged the integrity of the program that distributes about $1 billion a year in No Child Left Behind grants.
A state education official told the Star-Bulletin's Alexandre Da Silva that only one local school bought a program from a publisher Kame'enui was associated with and that it reading scores have improved. She said officials here knew of Kame'enui's connection, but did not feel pressured by his advice.
While that's reassuring, an earlier report from the federal department's inspector general found conflicts, cronyism and bias throughout the program. In light of the Kennedy report, some controls would be in line.
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