Fla. Fails To Spend Chapter 1 Funds

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More than $20 million of Florida's $123 million in federal compensatory-education money was unspent or misspent in the 1983-84 school year, according to a compilation of state records by the Miami News.

Sixty-six of the state's 67 school districts did not spend all of the Chapter 1 money that was coming to them, electing to carry over some money as a cushion against future funding uncertainties, confirmed Cecil G. Carlton, director of the state's bureau of compensatory education.

Unspent Chapter 1 money in the state totalled $20.6 million for the 1983-84 year, and at least one district failed to spend 70 percent of its allocation, Mr. Carlton said. State officials said school districts in Florida typically "carry over" 20 to 25 percent of their compensatory-education money.

Tabulating a state audit of 34 districts, the Miami newspaper also reported that 27 of the agencies had misspent a total of $2.6 million. Mr. Carlton said the state questioned the districts' expenditures but has not labelled them "misspent."

Carryovers Criticized

Hayes Mizell, an aide to Gov. Richard Riley of South Carolina and the former chairman of the President's National Advisory Panel on the Education of Disadvantaged Children, said districts' tendency not to spend compensatory-educa3tion money as a "hedge" against unexpected events is a long-time problem.

Contending that Chapter 1 fails to serve up to half the deserving students, Mr. Mizell commented that large carryovers amount to "willful reductions" in compensatory-education services decided upon by school districts.

John Staehle, deputy director of compensatory education in the U.S. Education Department, said federal Chapter 1 allocations remain available to school districts for 27 months after the government releases them on July 1 each year. But states have the authority to transfer money from one district that may get too much money to other, needier districts, he said.

As a "rule of thumb," Mr. Staehle said, states ought to be wary if districts consistently carry over more than 15 percent of their annual allocation. He said the amount of unspent funds varies from state to state.

Districts, Mr. Staehle added, do not receive their Chapter 1 funds in one sum--to invest or use as they please--but rely on periodic distribution by the state, which holds the funds, to meet their obligations.

According to Mr. Carlton, Florida's Chapter 1 director, state and federal officials are now trying to devise a solution to the state's high amount of unspent funds.--jh

Vol. 04, Issue 35

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