A software company run by Neil Bush, a younger brother of Gov. Jeb Bush, hopes to sell a program to Florida schools that students would use to prepare for the test that is key to the governor's education policy.
Texas-based Ignite Inc. makes software being used in a pilot program at an Orlando-area middle school to help students prepare for the Florida Comprehensive Assessment Test, which the governor has championed as a yardstick for school performance.
Ocoee Middle School, which has received millions of dollars in state grants to study ways of lowering costs, is using the software for free. But a company spokeswoman said Saturday that Ignite soon hopes to sell its early American history course to other Florida schools, at a cost of $30 a year per student.
Ignite spokeswoman Louise Thacker denied the company had an unfair advantage because Bush, its founder and CEO, is a brother of Florida's governor.
A spokeswoman for the state Department of Education said Friday that Ignite officials had not approached the state about its product. Mike Eason, formerly the top technology official for the department, is a member of an Ignite advisory board.
Katie Muniz, a spokeswoman for Jeb Bush, said the governor has never talked with his brother about the business.
Gov. Bush's use of the FCAT complies with a law supported by another brother - President George W. Bush. The president's "Leave No Child Behind" law forces states to use testing as a measuring stick for schools.
Jeb Bush's education agenda has been criticized by Democratic gubernatorial nominee Bill McBride, who has attacked the governor for his reliance on the FCAT to grade schools.
Ryan Banfill, spokesman for the state Democratic Party, called Ignite's marketing campaign in the state problematic, saying it creates a strange appearance.
"I don't know where the money's going to come from for this," Banfill said. "These districts are hard pressed to pay for chalk, let alone to put money in the pocket of the Bush family."
Neil Bush gained notoriety as director of the Silverado Savings & Loan in Colorado, whose failure cost taxpayers $1 billion and led to a grand jury investigation during the term of his father, President George H.W. Bush. Neil Bush was never charged.