Secretary of Education Margaret Spellings says the Department of Education committed “errors of judgment” by participating in a public relations contract that paid the commentator Armstrong Williams to promote the No Child Left Behind Act.
The admission came last week in a letter Ms. Spellings sent to Sens. Arlen Specter, R-Pa., and Tom Harkin, D-Iowa, the chairman and ranking minority member, respectively, of the Senate Appropriations Committee’s subcommittee that deals with education. Before Ms. Spellings took over as secretary last month, the department had defended the agreement, saying it was legal. (“Department’s PR Activities Scrutinized,” Jan. 19, 2005.)
In her Jan. 28 letter, Ms. Spellings said the department had directed Ketchum Inc., a New York City-based public relations firm, to stop all work under its $1 million contract with the department. Ketchum had subcontracted with Mr. Armstrong, paying him some $240,000 for advertising on his syndicated television show and to promote the education law. Ms. Spellings said the department’s review of the matter was a “top priority.”
A version of this article appeared in the February 09, 2005 edition of Education Week