Sunday, October 22, 2006

Just A Coincidence, I'm Sure

I have a couple of educators in the family, and they refer to the President's education act as "No Child Left Alive." Many other teachers I've spoken to have blistered my ears with less civil descriptions of the federal requirements which essentially now require teachers to teach with only one goal in mind: getting the students to pass standardized tests.

Not everyone is so disgusted with this shift in pedagogy. One family in particular is quite pleased, as suggested in an article in today's Los Angeles Times:

A company headed by President Bush's brother and partly owned by his parents is benefiting from Republican connections and federal dollars targeted for economically disadvantaged students under the No Child Left Behind Act.

With investments from his parents, George H.W. and Barbara Bush, and other backers, Neil Bush's company, Ignite! Learning, has placed its products in 40 U.S. school districts and now plans to market internationally.

...Most of Ignite's business has been obtained through sole-source contracts without competitive bidding. Neil Bush has been directly involved in marketing the product.

In addition to federal or state funds, foundations and corporations have helped buy Ignite products. The Washington Times Foundation, backed by the Rev. Sun Myung Moon, head of the South Korea-based Unification Church, has peppered classrooms throughout Virginia with Ignite's COWs under a $1-million grant.

Oil companies and Middle East interests with long political ties to the Bush family have made similar bequests. Aramco Services Co., an arm of the Saudi-owned oil company, has donated COWs to schools, as have Apache Corp., BP and Shell Oil Co.

Neil Bush said he is a businessman who does not attempt to exert political influence, and he called The Times' inquiries about his venture — made just before the election — "entirely political."

The company's modules, ironically, do not include mathematics or reading, yet many districts are cheerfully ponying up for one or more of these portable classrooms (the "cows" alluded to above). One teacher quoted in the article complained that there was no district money for paper or scissors, yet they could find the financing for one of these "cows," which cost over $100,000 a piece.

The article also notes that the purchase and placement of the "cows" is usually done by sole source contracts, frequently instigated by local leaders or school board members who just happen to be Republican donors.

It's nice to see a literal mom-and-pop store doing so well. If only our school kids were doing as well.


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