by David Safier
I'll be talking about this on Robin Hiller's State of Education show this morning — Saturday, 11 to 11:30am on KVOI, 1030AM — but here's an update to information on some of my earlier posts on the Al Melvin/Imagine Learning story before I go on her show. (It's a call-in show. The number, I believe, is 790-2040. If you want to call, listen to the show to confirm the number.)
Basically, Al Melvin's SB1239 would give $30 million to a Utah company, Imagine Learning, to provide a computer-based program for K-3 students who are far behind in their reading. Since I last posted, the bill has passed the Senate Education Committee by a 6-2 margin, with one Democratic No Vote.
I also noted that Imagine Learning has a similar deal that's already up and running in Utah. To grease the skids, I wrote, the company gave legislators $12,000 in campaign funds in 2009. That figure needs an update. The company's total campaign contributions in Utah amount to over $57,000, mostly to powerful Republicans but also to some well-placed Democrats. I don't know if there have been similar contributions here in Arizona.
A final update. Apparently at least one Arizona school (or school district) had been using Imagine Learning's reading program but decided to get rid of it and go with a different company which they felt did an equivalent or better job with reading instruction but had more flexibility with upgrades and a better reporting system. Unfortunately, I don't have all the details. I doubt Melvin has been in contact with districts around the state to find out if any of them have had similar concerns with Imagine Learning. Imagine Learning's ALEC connections and its acceptance by the conservative education community are all Melvin needs to know to throw $30 million the company's way.