To the Editor:
I find it very disturbing that the identities of the “expert” panelists chosen to review the first round of applications for federal Race to the Top grants are being kept secret by U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan (“Reviewers Winnow Race to Top Hopefuls,” March 3, 2010).
In my view, this is a deliberate attempt to avoid the kind of investigation that led to the exposure of massive conflicts of interest in the Reading First review process. Consequently, I have sent the following complaint to the Department of Education’s office of inspector general:
“In light of the past fraud involved in the appointment and abuse of peer reviews under Reading First, I believe the secretary of education should be ordered to reveal who has been chosen to review proposals for the Race to the Top competition and what procedure was used to select those chosen as ‘expert’ reviewers.
“As one of the applicants to review, I believe I have a right under the Freedom of Information Act to know why I was not chosen and what procedures were used to vet applicants. I want to be assured that I was not blackballed because I was a prominent critic of [the No Child Left Behind Act].
“The possibility of fraud, conflicts of interest, and abuse of power is always present when such a wall is created around the procedures and the processes involved in distributing large sums of money.
“It is the responsibility of the OIG to investigate any possibility of wrongdoing, and the secrecy involved in this process suggests a deliberate attempt to hinder the OIG in its work.
“Please respond to this concern.”
I urge your paper to pursue the facts in this situation. Six billion dollars was wasted and looted under Reading First. The public and the profession need to know that billions more will not be diverted into the pockets of ideologues and profiteers.
Kenneth S. Goodman
College of Education
University of Arizona
A version of this article appeared in the March 17, 2010 edition of Education Week as Protesting ‘Race to the Top’ Review Process