If it weren’t so dreadful for the nation’s schools, Static would crow over the recently released audit of the billion-dollar Reading First initiative, part of Dubya’s No Child Left Behind program.

The damning audit, by the federal education agency’s Office of Inspector General, aired a dirty little secret that this paper revealed months ago: Federal reading gurus have been funneling reading-program money into the pockets of a few favored vendors. By rewriting guidelines and arm-twisting the states, they made sure reading programs were bought from vendors in which the agency’s “independent” advisors had (or thereafter gained) a financial interest.

Prominently mentioned were three advisors with ties to Voyager Expanded Learning, which the Weekly wrote about (“School for Profit,” Jan. 18). One of the trio was Reid Lyon, the most trusted reading advisor to George “Is Our Children Learning?” Bush. Lyon was recently hired by former Voyager owner Randy Best of Dallas to head up his newest venture – an “internet” college for teachers around the globe, created with the profits he made when he sold Voyager last year for $350 million.

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There’s money in education all right – it just isn’t going to the kids.

One Struggle Over, Another Continues

Fort Worth lost one of its most dedicated naturalists and environmental activists when Earl Burnam died this week at 77, of congestive heart failure complicated by a long struggle with emphysema. Of his many conservationist awards, Burnam was proudest of the Burnam Environmental Outdoor Learning Center at the Fort Worth Nature Center, dedicated last year to him and his wife Alma, also a committed environmentalist and naturalist.

His son, State Rep. Lon Burnam, said the family has always believed that the region’s bad air contributed to his non-smoking father’s disease. “It’s a tragic irony that a man who began working in clean air campaigns almost 30 years ago died of this deadly lung disease,” he said.


While we’re on the topic of the environment, Static should report that it saw Al Gore a few days ago, giving his combined stand-up comic and serious-professor routine on behalf of saving the planet. If Al had only been so relaxed, funny, and sincere when he ran for president, he might have won. But wait, he did win didn’t he? Sigh.