Monday, September 24, 2007

Neil Bush link to federal funds questioned

Neil Bush link to federal funds questioned
Group seeks inquiry into purchases of educational equipment sold by Austin company.

By Larry Lipman
Saturday, September 15, 2007

WASHINGTON — A nonpartisan ethics watchdog group has urged the Education Department's inspector general to investigate why federal money has been spent on educational products sold by a company founded and headed by Neil Bush, President Bush's younger brother.

The company, Ignite! Learning, based in Austin, has sold curriculum-loaded projectors worth hundreds of thousands of dollars to school districts around the country, partially funded through the federal No Child Left Behind Act promoted by the president, according to a letter sent Wednesday from the group Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington.

Over the past five years, Austin has spent $70,940 for the units, of which nearly $42,400 was federal money, according to documents filed with the letter to the inspector general. Longview has spent $126,400 for the units, of which $94,060 was federal money, according to documents.

In its letter, the watchdog group said there is no evidence the units meet standards in the No Child Left Behind Act.

"It is astonishing that taxpayer dollars are being spent on unproven educational products to the financial benefit of the president's brother," said Melanie Sloan, the group's executive director. "The IG should investigate whether children's educations are being sacrificed so that Neil Bush can rake in federal funds."

Devon Price, director of marketing for Ignite! Learning, confirmed that Neil Bush is the company's founder and chief executive. Bush could not be reached for comment.

The company "has no control over how school districts choose to spend federal funds," a statement said.

It also claimed that the group's letter contains inaccurate statements about the Ignite curriculum, which it said is used in 22 states.

"What we can say is that Title I and other federal monies have been used to purchase Ignite products, just as they have been used to purchase products from every other educational publisher and provider," the statement said.

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