While the DoED is praising the outcomes of Reading First through an internally funded study, the House Education and Labor Committee is investigating potentially criminal behavior at the DoED surrounding Reading First.
Rep. Miller scolded Mr. Doherty at one point.
“Was your mantra, ‘Mistakes were made’?” Rep. Miller said. “You don’t get to override the law because you’re turning the law into a program.”
Mr. Doherty responded: “We thought then, and we think now, we did abide by the law.”
The hearing was the first of two that are expected in Congress in the wake of reports by the Education Department inspector general and the Government Accountability Office that found federal officials had mismanaged the program.
“We found that the department obscured the requirements of the statute by inappropriately including or excluding standards in the application criteria,” Mr. Higgins told the committee.
Ms. Lewis noted that one of the consultants providing assistance during the grant-review process had financial ties to the assessment, the Dynamic Indicators of Basic Early Literacy Skills, or DIBELS. Kentucky was asked to revise its Reading First grant proposal three times.
“We were repeatedly advised to replace our current assessment tool with DIBELS,” Ms. Lewis said.
Rep. Howard P. “Buck” McKeon, R-Calif., the ranking Republican on the education committee, has introduced legislation that would require the Education Department and its contractors to screen Reading First peer reviewers for potential conflicts of interest, among other provisions.
Rep. McKeon was much less hostile to the witnesses connected to the Reading First program than Mr. Miller and some of the other committee Democrats.
“I want to thank you for your service,” he said. “I’ve been here almost 15 years, and I’ve seen a lot of people get crucified, and I’m really getting sick of it.”
But after hearing some four hours of testimony about alleged missteps and wrongdoing in the implementation of the federal program, Rep. Miller said he would consider making his own request for a criminal investigation.
“I think this process was cooked from the very beginning,” he said.