Federal File: Inmate aid; Michigan upgrade; Potemkin High?

October 25, 1989 1 min read

House members were outraged recently to discover that a legal loophole may be netting prisoners as much as $300 in Pell Grant funds.

Representative Peter H. Kostmayer, Democrat of Pennsylvania, protested the situation in debate on the 1990 education budget. It had been brought to his attention by the warden at a prison in his district.

Prisoners do not receive the costs of in-prison training directly, but Pell recipients are also eligible for “living expenses.”

Before the Higher Education Act was amended in 1986, regulations prohibited such allowances for prisoners. But the Congress decided to allow colleges to calculate the cost of training for prisoners, and did not exclude living expenses.

When the issue was raised on the House floor, members howled with indignation and vowed to close the loophole.

When the Education Department released its annual “wall chart,” which reports educational statistics by state, officials in several states with less-than-stellar stats complained about its accuracy.

Michigan officials also did something about it. They convinced ed that the graduation rate for their state had been calculated incorrectly.

The number of graduates was underestimated by 2,725, according to state officials, and adults were included in the total number of students used to calculate the rate--but not in the number of graduates.

The correct retention rate for Michigan schools should be 76.29 percent, they said.

That places Michigan 25th among the states, not 48th.

When a star-studded group of Congressional Democrats visited Eleanor Roosevelt High School last month to unveil their proposals for the President’s education summit, officials at the Greenbelt, Md., school apparently borrowed some photo-opportunity techniques from the world of politics.

In preparation for a tour of biology and chemistry classes, officials placed one microscope per student in a classroom where sharing by three or four students is the norm. A broken mass spectrometer also appeared.

Moreover, the officials asked several black students who took chemistry at a different time to be in the class visited by the politicians to “better reflect the racial makeup of the school,” a spokesman said.

The scene-setting moves became public when they were criticized in the school’s student newspaper.--jm

A version of this article appeared in the October 25, 1989 edition of Education Week as Federal File: Inmate aid; Michigan upgrade; Potemkin High?