Two years ago this month Congress passed the economic stimulus package, infusing the nation’s schools with an additional $100 billion and providing an endless source of intrigue for us @ Politics K-12.
While it may seem like a lot of the stimulus fun is over—you know, Race to the Top awards have been handed out, people are coming to grips with the four turnaround models—I think the fun (if you can call it that) is just beginning.
And that’s because we need to start asking: Where did all of that money go?
In my quest to start answering that, I asked the good folks at the U.S. Department of Education’s Office of the Inspector General a bunch of questions, and came upon these interesting reports. They detail how many complaints of stimulus misuse have been filed with the OIG, and what generally happened to them. (You have to really hunt for this data though. If you open one of the spreadsheets, it’s under the “work products” tab.)
The upshot: A lot of people have complained about stimulus problems, but very few of the complaints amounted to anything.
According to the latest report from November, the OIG has fielded 514 complaints since the stimulus money started flowing in 2009, and only five of them have resulted in some sort of prosecution or settlement against a grant recipient. On page 7 of this OIG report, you’ll see that most of the convictions seem to revolve around the Pell Grant program.
There are 64 ongoing investigations, and we’ll try to keep you updated on whether those turn into anything substantive.
The other 400-plus complaints did not end up being investigated, and for a sense of why not, turn to Table A of this report to Congress. Essentially, a lot of complaints are either unfounded, pertain to funds that are outside the Education Department, or resulted in dead-ends when investigators were unable to gather more information from the complainers.
Given how much education stimulus money is at stake—nearly $100 billion—the amount of wrongdoing uncovered so far has been minimal. In those same monthly reports, (look under the “monetary results” tab in the spreadsheet), the OIG reports that they’ve recovered $7,200 from their investigations, and saved taxpayers $1.2 million, since 2009.
Of course, the Education Department’s latest data show there’s still more than $25 billion left to be spent in stimulus funds. So now’s not the time to stop following the money.