File under "Everything They Touch Turns to Shit":
WASHINGTON —A federal investigator looking into allegations of conflict of interest and mismanagement in a $1 billion-a-year Education Department reading program said Friday he has made criminal referrals to the Justice Department.
John Higgins, the Education Department's inspector general, refused to specify for reporters what he has asked government prosecutors to look at, but investigators have been highly critical of the department's management of the Reading First program.
Criminal referrals are made by investigators when they encounter evidence of possible federal crimes, which only the Justice Department has authority to prosecute.
Reading First, created by President Bush's signature No Child Left Behind law, offers intensive reading help for low-income children in the early grades. But investigators say that federal officials intervened to influence state and local decisions about what programs to use, a potential violation of the law. Some of the people who were influencing those decisions had a financial interest in the programs that were being pushed, officials said.
"I think we're very close to a criminal enterprise here," House Education and Labor Committee chairman George Miller, D-Calif., said at an investigative hearing Friday. "Have you made any criminal referrals, Mr. Higgins?"
"We have made referrals to the Department of Justice," Higgins said.
Miller said his committee may also make criminal referrals. "I think when we put the evidence together we may join you in those criminal referrals," Miller told Higgins.
I never bought that they were sincere in caring about education with all their platitudes about "No Child Left Behind," but stealing from school reading programs is pretty friggin' low.
This ought to play well in the heartlands.