"A child's learning is the funtion more of the characteristics of his classmates than those of the teacher." James Coleman, 1972

Thursday, March 08, 2007

Where's the Accountability at ED?

For a Department of Education whose mantra is accountability for teachers, students and schools across the country, especially the poor ones that is, and no excuses, is Ms. Margaret going to be held accountable for the conflicts of interests bordering on illegal and criminal activity in her majesty's queendom?


In fact, just how long is it going to take for Congress to wake up and admit that the entire educational policy built into the No Child Left Behind Act is one huge conflict of interest as the $2.6 billion testing industry and private companies and corporations tied to the Bush administration hang their hats on expanding NCLB to high schools and colleges. It's nice to see the New York Times reporting the "conflict of interest" in the student loan scandal and the Reading First scandal, but how long will it take the New York Times and others to start reporting on the conflict of interest between Bush & Co. and McGraw Hill. Hmmmm.....I suppose we'll have to leave that one to the bloggers. The sheep in the media will catch on eventually. Looks like Reading First and NelNet are just the tips on this iceberg that's melting fast.


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Lawmakers from both parties are pressuring the Education Department to explain why it let a student loan company keep $278 million in subsidies that an audit found improper.

The pressure indicates that both parties are focused on the increasing costs of higher education.
The loan company, Nelnet, received the payments through a subsidy program that guaranteed a 9.5 percent interest rate on student loans. In an accord reached in January, the department allowed Nelnet to keep the $278 million it had received but suspended future payments of more than $800 million until a future audit could determine whether the company was eligible for the money.


Ten Democrats on the House Education and Labor Committee, as well as a separate bipartisan group of 10 members of Congress, sent letters to the department in the last two days seeking an explanation of that decision.

Last week, Senator Edward M. Kennedy, the Massachusetts Democrat who is chairman of the Senate Committee on Health, Education, Labor and Pensions, asked the department for copies of all communications with the company since last August on the decision not to seek recovery of the money.

A spokeswoman said Mr. Kennedy planned a full investigation into the case.
“I am interested in the rationale underlying your decision to reject the recommendation by the department’s inspector general that the chief operating officer for Federal Student Aid ‘require the return of the overpayments’ made to Nelnet,” Mr. Kennedy wrote.


He asked the department to provide the documents by March 31.
In a follow-up letter, Mr. Kennedy asked yesterday whether the department had received a necessary approval from the Justice Department before reaching the agreement.
A spokeswoman for the Education Department, Katherine McLane, said the agency was reviewing the letters.


The letter from the 10 Democrats on the House committee was sent on Wednesday to Education Secretary Margaret Spellings. It also asked for a description of actions that the department might take toward other companies that might be receiving similar payments.
“The Nelnet example represents a serious misuse of federal funds, and it is likely that this is not an isolated case,” the letter said. “It is critical for you to conduct full oversight.”


In their letter sent on Tuesday, the bipartisan group of lawmakers — seven Republicans and three Democrats, none of whom signed the Wednesday letter — criticized the decision to settle with Nelnet, of Lincoln, Neb., as fiscally irresponsible and warned that it set a poor precedent.
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Oh, and btw, let's not forget about Reading First.

Senator Kennedy sent letters to Education Department officials and contractors involved in Reading First, a $1 billion-a-year program in which he demanded to see all correspondence and contracts between Reading First and the White House, the department and other entities.
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Who is going to be held accountable?

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