Feds seek Reading First probe
by Joe Quick, Legislative Liaison/Communication Specialist
Sens. Herb Kohl and Russ Feingold, along with Rep. Tammy Baldwin have requested that the U.S. Department of Education investigate Madison Schools’ loss of an estimated $3.2 million after the district refused to dismantle its successful reading program two years ago, and seek to have the grant re-instated.
A scathing internal audit this fall claimed that USDOE officials managing the $1 billion program knowingly broke the law with unethical practices surrounding the program. In a letter to the above named members of Congress, Supt. Art Rainwater said, “In light of the government audit of the federal Reading First program contending that USDOE ignored the law and violated ethical standards to steer money the way it wanted, I am asking that you request reinstatement of the lost resources to the Madison Metropolitan School District due to USDOE’s faulty conclusions that the audit makes obvious.”
In a letter to Terrell Halaska , USDOE assistant secretary for legislative and Congressional affairs, the Wisconsin Congressional members said, “The report from the Office of Inspector General questions the program’s credibility and implies the Department broke the law by interfering in the curriculum decisions made by schools, thereby failing to follow proper grant review procedures.
“We would appreciate your review and investigation of the concerns expressed by the Madison Metropolitan School District. Specifically, they are seeking reinstatement of lost federal resources to the Madison Schools from the Reading First program.”
The Elementary and Secondary Education Act (now referred to as No Child Left Behind) is before Congress for reauthorization in 2007. Discussion of Reading First is sure to be part of Congress’ examination of needed modifications to the law.