Ed Week reports that William Bennett’s education company, K12, may have benefited from sweetheart contracts from the United States Department of Education. K12 has received $4.1 million in federal dollars in the past two years.
From Ed Week:
An Education Week review of federal and state documents, as well as information from sources familiar with the grantmaking process, shows that K12 and its Arkansas partner received the grant despite the fact that one project that independent reviewers rated higher was not funded. The choice of a lower-rated proposal over a higher-rated one in the department’s competitive-grant process is highly unusual, according to sources inside and outside the department.
The project received approval from political appointees even though some employees inside the department questioned whether it fit a basic criterion for the program: that the students benefiting from the grant attend public schools.
Education Department officials acknowledge that the office of the deputy secretary of education chose to finance the Arkansas-based project even after department employees who managed the competitive-grant program initially recommended a slate of 10 projects that did not include the online school.
The department picked the project because it was “especially innovative,” said Susan Aspey, an Education Department spokeswoman.
Ms. Aspey also said department officials were satisfied that the Arkansas online school is a public school because its students are enrolled in a local public school even though they do not attend it.
But even the head of the online school for Mr. Bennett’s company said that it is not a public school. In fact, earlier this year, the Arkansas legislature refused to fund it as a public charter school.
Many people who have worked at the Education Department say the agency’s grant award went against practices of previous administrations. In the competitive-grant process, the department almost always funds projects that peer reviewers rate the best, said Thomas W. Fagan, a former department employee who managed dozens of competitive-grant programs during his 29 years of service under both Republican and Democratic administrations.
“We were very scrupulous about going with the peer reviewers’ recommendations,” added Christopher T. Cross, speaking of his tenure at the department under former President George H.W. Bush. “I don’t remember ever going against the peer reviewers’ recommendations.”
…One department employee contends that officials of the current Bush administration acted out of political interests in making the Arkansas award and failed to follow the congressional intent for the grant program or the department’s procedures for awarding competitive grants.
“Anything with Bill Bennett’s name on it was going to get funded,” said the employee, who has knowledge of how the department decided to make the grant to K12. The employee asked not to be identified.
Gee, this sounds so out of character for the Bush Administration…What are the odds that Congressional Republicans (who not so long ago were very concerned about departmental mismanagement) seriously look into this? Bennett probably knows the morning line on that!