The top Democrat on the House Education and the Workforce Committee called last week for an investigation of U.S. Department of Education grants totaling millions of dollars that have benefited an online education company and a teacher-certification organization.
U.S. Rep. George Miller of California, in an Oct. 21 letter, asked the Government Accountability Office to look into $4.1 million in competitive-grant money awarded to the Arkansas education department for an online learning project it set up with K12 Inc. The company, based in McLean, Va., was founded by William J. Bennett, who served as U.S. secretary of education under President Reagan.
An Education Week report last summer found that the grant involving K12 was awarded even though the project did not meet Education Department grant criteria and peer reviewers had ranked at least one other project higher. (“Federal Grant Involving Bennett’s K12 Inc. Questioned,” July 28, 2004.)
The department has defended the award for the project, which an agency spokeswoman described as “especially innovative.” The spokeswoman, Susan Aspey, declined to comment last week on the request for the GAO investigation.
Mr. Miller also asked that the GAO investigate a $40 million grant to the American Board for Certification of Teacher Excellence, a project of the Education Leaders Council. According to his letter, the ABCTE award disregarded two out of three reviewers’ rejections of the project.
Deputy Secretary of Education Eugene W. Hickok, a founding member of the ELC while serving as a Pennsylvania education official, has said he did not participate in awarding the grant.