News in Brief: A Washington Roundup

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Oversight of 'High Risk' Grantees
Is Inadequate, Inspector Reports

The Department of Education has not taken adequate steps to identify and monitor "high risk" recipients of grant money, according to the agency's inspector general.

For More Info
"Read the U.S. Department of Education's Inspector General's report. (Requires Adobe's Acrobat Reader.)

The Department of Education has not taken adequate steps to identify and monitor "high risk" recipients of grant money, according to the agency's inspector general.

A Sept. 24 report examines the monitoring process in the office of elementary and secondary education for "discretionary" grants, those issued competitively at the discretion of the department. The office distributes about $1 billion annually in such grants for after-school programs, migrant education, magnet schools, and other purposes.

"The department must ensure that federal funds are spent appropriately and grant project's objectives are being met," the report says. "OESE needs to implement an officewide strategy to identify and monitor high-risk grantees to ensure the accountability and effectiveness of discretionary-grant programs."

A grantee may be considered high-risk if it has a history of unsatisfactory performance, is not financially stable, or has not conformed to the terms of previous awards, among other concerns.

The audit covered the period from Oct. 1, 1999, through Sept. 30, 2000.

While program officials disclosed that some grantees were viewed as posing problems, the report says, only one of nine programs reviewed had designated any grantees as high-risk.

The department concurred with the findings and recommendations in the report.

—Erik W. Robelen

Title I Money Falls Far Short,
Education Alliance Argues

A relatively new education group on the scene has issued a report that calls for dramatically increasing the budget for the federal Title I program.

The Alliance for Excellent Education says that because Title I is not fully funded, school districts have been forced to make a "Sophie's choice" between their elementary-age children and older students, and that they typically choose to spend limited funds on early education. Districts also receive far less per pupil than the law allows, according to the report.

To serve all eligible children, spending for Title I—the flagship federal program for disadvantaged students—would have to triple from $8.76 billion in fiscal 2001, which ended Sept. 30, to $27.4 billion, the alliance says.

Formed in December 1999, the alliance has some ties to the Clinton administration. The executive director, Susan Frost, was a senior adviser to former Secretary of Education Richard W. Riley. And Kevin J. Sullivan, also a senior adviser to Mr. Riley during the Clinton years, wrote the report. Mr. Riley himself issued a statement praising the report, which is titled "Investing in Education: Making Title I Work for All Children."

Even during Mr. Riley's tenure, however, the department did not request whopping increases for Title I. In the final budget year of the Clinton administration, for example, the department requested a $416 million increase, or 5.2 percent.

—Erik W. Robelen

Department Awards $50 Million
To Improve History Instruction

Nearly $50 million in grants issued by the Department of Education last week will go to improve the teaching of American history.

The new program, added during the appropriations process last year by Sen. Robert C. Byrd, D-W.Va., provides grants to school districts, in partnership with sources of scholarly expertise such as universities and museums, for professional-development programs for teachers.

"The Teaching American History grants will help teachers share the ideas and events that shaped our nation with more children, deepening their understanding of the complexity and variety of American history," Secretary of Education Rod Paige said in announcing the 60 grants.

Given its narrow focus, the generous funding level for the program is somewhat unusual. For example, a separate civics education program is funded at $10 million this year.

But the future of the history initiative is unclear, as President Bush and some lawmakers, especially Republicans, are attempting to consolidate some federal programs. Mr. Bush's fiscal 2002 budget request contained no money specifically for the program.

It has a powerful ally, however, in Mr. Byrd, who chairs the Senate Appropriations Committee.

—Erik W. Robelen

Vol. 21, Issue 6, Page 29

Published in Print: October 10, 2001, as News in Brief: A Washington Roundup
Web Resources
  • The National Association of Secondary School Principals issued a statement on the Alliance for Excellent Education report.
  • Read a list of districts receiving grants for improving history instruction.
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