WASHINGTON – A scorching internal review of the Bush administration's reading program says the Education Department ignored the law and ethical standards to steer money how it wanted.
The government audit is unsparing in its review of how Reading First, a billion-dollar program each year, that it says has been beset by conflicts of interest and willful mismanagement. It suggests the department broke the law by trying to dictate which curriculum schools must use.
It also depicts a program in which review panels were stacked with people who shared the director's views and in which only favored publishers of reading curricula could get money.
In one e-mail, the director told a staff member to come down hard on a company he didn't support, according to the report released Friday by the department's inspector general.
"They are trying to crash our party and we need to beat the (expletive deleted) out of them in front of all the other would-be party crashers who are standing on the front lawn waiting to see how we welcome these dirtbags," the Reading First director wrote, according to the report.
That official, Chris Doherty, is resigning in the coming days, department spokeswoman Katherine McLane said Friday. Asked if his quitting was in response to the report, she said only that Doherty is returning to the private sector after five years at the agency.
Education Secretary Margaret Spellings, in a statement, pledged to swiftly adopt all of the audit's recommendations. She also pledged a review of every Reading First grant.
"I am concerned about these actions and committed to addressing and resolving them," she said.