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Waste of the Day: Throwback Thursday: Texas School Buys a Water Slide to Teach Kids Reading

A Texas school district actually bought a water slide and other luxuries with federal funds, then claimed these enhanced reading instruction.

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Texas quarter reverse

Topline: In 2008, a school district in Cleburne, Texas used $367,000 in federal funds — about $536,000 in today’s money — to buy an inflatable alligator, an “under-the-sea water slide” and more.

That’s according to the “Wastebook” reporting published by the late U.S. Senator Dr. Tom Coburn. For years, these reports shined a white-hot spotlight on federal frauds and taxpayer abuses.

Coburn, the late U.S. Senator from Oklahoma, earned the nickname “Dr. No” by stopping thousands of pork-barrel projects using the Senate rules. Projects that he couldn’t stop, Coburn included in his oversight reports. Coburn’s Wastebook 2008 included 65 examples of outrageous spending worth more than $1.3 billion, including the $367,000 wasted funds from Cleburne schools.

Waste of the Day: Throwback Thursday: Texas School Buys a Water Slide to Teach Kids Reading
Waste of the Day 2.08.24 by Open the Books

Key facts: Auditors first became suspicious when Cleburne officials could not provide lesson plans that explained how the alligator and water slide “supported reading instruction,” as their budget claimed.

Frivolous purchases also included a $908 steakhouse dinner, a $5,000 trip to Mexico and a $14,000 trip to Colorado, according to a news report from the time. Auditors also found checks of up to $10,000 that were paid to vendors without any corresponding invoice or receipt. The $367,000 in wasted money represented 44% of Cleburne schools’ federal funding from 2008.

Background: Spending at Cleburne has only increased since 2008. The school district’s payroll has risen from $41 million to $54 million during the period 2017-2022, according to spending records analyzed by OpenTheBooks. The district also paid over $22 million to outside vendors in 2022.


Critical quote: Harold Gentry — a member of Access Cleburne, the watchdog group that initiated the 2008 audit — had some fiery words for the school district.

“Central office administrators have put in jeopardy the future of our children’s education by their irresponsible misuse of federal funds and have attempted to deceive the public at every turn,” Gentry said. “The superintendent was responsible, but not entirely responsible. Any central office administrator who is clearly involved needs to be terminated and board members who are also responsible for approving this misuse need to resign.”

Summary: No, inflatable alligators don’t help kids learn to read. Apparently it cost $367,000 for Cleburne to learn that the hard way.

The #WasteOfTheDay is brought to you by the forensic auditors at

This article was originally published by RealClearInvestigations and made available via RealClearWire.

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Adam Andrzejewski (say: Angie-eff-ski) is the CEO/founder of Before dedicating his life to public service, Adam co-founded HomePages Directories, a $20 million publishing company (1997-2007). His works have been featured on the BBC, Good Morning America, ABC World News Tonight, C-SPAN, The Wall Street Journal, The New York Times, USA Today, FOX News, CNN, National Public Radio (NPR), Forbes, Newsweek, and many other national media.

Today, is the largest private repository of U.S. public-sector spending. Mission: post "every dime, online, in real time." In 2022, captured nearly all public expenditures in the country, including nearly all disclosed federal government spending; 50 of 50 state checkbooks; and 25 million public employee salary and pension records from 50,000 public bodies across America.

The group's aggressive transparency and forensic auditing of government spending has led to the assembly of grand juries, indictments, and successful prosecutions; congressional briefings, hearings, and subpoenas; Government Accountability Office (GAO) audits; Congressional Research Service (CRS) reports; federal legislation; and much more.

Our Honorary Chairman - In Memoriam is U.S. Senator Tom Coburn, MD.

Andrzejewski's federal oversight work was included in the President's Budget To Congress FY2021. The budget cited his organization by name, bullet-pointed their findings, and footnoted/hyperlinked to their report.

Posted on YouTube, Andrzejewski's presentation, The Depth of the Swamp, at the Hillsdale College National Leadership Seminar 2020 in Naples, Florida received 3.8 million views.

Andrzejewski has spoken at the Columbia School of Journalism, Harvard Law School and the law schools at Georgetown and George Washington regarding big data journalism. As a senior policy contributor at Forbes, Adam had nearly 20 million pageviews on 206 published investigations. In 2022, investigative fact-finding on Dr. Fauci's finances led to his cancellation at Forbes.

In 2022, Andrzejewski did 473 live television and radio interviews across broadcast, major cable platforms, and radio shows. Andrzejewski is the author of The Waste of the Day column at Real Clear Policy. The column is syndicated by Sinclair Broadcast Group, owners of nearly 200 ABC, NBC, CBS, and FOX affiliates across USA.

Andrzejewski lives in Hinsdale, Illinois with his wife Kerry and three daughters. He is a lector at St. Isaac Jogues Catholic Church and has finished the Chicago Marathon eight times (PR 3:58.49 in 2022).

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