Former first lady Barbara Bush gave relief money to a hurricane relief fund on the condition that it be spent to buy educational software from her son Neil’s company.
The chief of staff of former President George H.W. Bush would not disclose the amount earmarked for purchases from Ignite Learning.
Since Barbara Bush’s gift, the Ignite Learning program has been given to eight public schools with high numbers of Hurricane Katrina evacuees, the Houston Chronicle reported.
“Mrs. Bush wanted to do something specifically for education and specifically for the thousands of students flooding into the Houston schools,” Jean Becker said Thursday.
The money was donated to the Bush-Clinton Houston Hurricane Relief Fund, said Steve Maislin, president of the Greater Houston Community Foundation, which administers the fund. That fund has no connection to the Bush-Clinton Katrina Fund, he said.
Barbara Bush chose to promote Ignite because she supports her son and has genuine enthusiasm for his company’s program, Becker said.
Two years ago, the Houston school district board wrestled with conflict of interest concerns over the Ignite program. Neil Bush had helped raise $115,000 for the district’s philanthropic fund from donors who insisted the money be spent on his company’s software.
The district accepted the donations and used them to pay half the costs of new Ignite software, about $10,000 per school.
Currently, Houston public schools use 15 Ignite programs and the Houston area has 40 programs, said company President Ken Leonard.
Neil Bush founded the Austin-based company in 1999.