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Barbara Bush Earmarks Katrina Relief Fund Money for Son Neil's Company

Former first lady Barbara Bush gave relief money to the Bush-Clinton Katrina Fund on the condition that it be spent to buy educational software from her son Neil's company.

The chief of staff of former President George H.W. Bush would not disclose the amount earmarked for purchases from Ignite Learning.

Since Barbara Bush's gift, the Ignite Learning program has been given to eight public schools with high numbers of Hurricane Katrina evacuees, the Houston Chronicle reported.

"Mrs. Bush wanted to do something specifically for education and specifically for the thousands of students flooding into the Houston schools," Jean Becker said Thursday.

Barbara Bush chose to promote Ignite because she supports her son and has genuine enthusiasm for his company's program, Becker said.

Becker would not say the total amount of money the Bushes have given to the fund, established by former presidents Bush and Clinton for victims of the hurricane, which slammed the Gulf Coast in August. Becker did say only the Ignite portion is specifically earmarked.

Two years ago, the Houston school district board wrestled with conflict of interest concerns over the Ignite program. Neil Bush had helped raise $115,000 for the district's philanthropic fund from donors who insisted the money be spent on his company's software.

The district accepted the donations and used them to pay half the costs of new Ignite software, about $10,000 per school.

Currently, Houston public schools use 15 Ignite programs and the Houston area has 40 programs, said company president Ken Leonard.

Neil Bush founded the Austin-based company in 1999.