Strangeness at Education Dept

A sleeper of a story came out a week or so ago that nonetheless caught our eye: The Government Accountability Office found the Department of Education was bending its own rules in awarding certain grants. There were three cases they singled out; two of those benefited folks with ties to the Bush administration.

The third case was largely ignored, even though it was the worst example of political manipulation the GAO found. In essence, a top appointed official turned a grant review process upside down on behalf of one company, America’s Charter School Finance Corporation – literally reached in and made ACSFC a grantee even though experts agreed it wasn’t deserved. Here’s a taste:

[T]he deputy secretary asked his staff — a senior political appointee — to re-review the fifth and sixth ranked competitors. . . Program officials said that they had never before experienced a case where a senior political appointee selectively re-reviewed and rescored particular applicants[.]

Strong stuff, particularly from the normally snoozy GAO.

The report doesn’t mention how much money was given to ACSFC, but a few calls around yielded the figure of $5 million.

What gives? Who were the political appointees involved? And why was it so important to them that ACSFC get so much money? Does anybody know anything more about this?