In case you missed it, the Chronicle of Higher Education published an excellent package of articles last week dissecting the downfall of Robert D. Felner, the former education school dean at the University of Louisville.
Felner is facing federal charges of mail fraud, money laundering, and tax evasion in connection with a $694,000 grant he got from the U.S. Department of Education to establish a research center to help Kentucky’s public schools. Prosecutors say that most of the money, as well as $1.7 million in payments from three urban school districts, ended up in the pockets of Felner and a former co-worker.
In his articles, though, writer David Glenn also raises questions about the Education Department’s oversight of Felner’s project. He writes:
But what about the U.S. Department of Education, which was responsible for overseeing the grant on taxpayers' behalf? Should it, too, be doing some soul-searching in the aftermath of Mr. Felner's indictiment?
Good question. Glenn writes that the project was twice given “no cost extensions” on the basis of “extraordinarily vague statements” about the status of the work.
Over at The Quick and the Ed, though, Kevin Carey lays the blame for this fiasco on the Congressional pork-barrel process, which gave birth to this earmarked project. He says:
This is what happens with pork. The U.S. Department was exercising minimal oversight because, hey, it's not really their project, is it? They'd rather decide how to disburse FIPSE money but Congress won't let them. ... But Congress—in this case, Representative Anne M. Northrup (R-Kentucky), who wangled the money—isn't set up to monitor grants. Nor do they have any incentive to root out corruption and incompetence for their own earmarks ... . Colleges, meanwhile, are culpable as they've increasingly decided to play the game along with everyone else by hiring special pork lobbyists etc. etc
A version of this news article first appeared in the Inside School Research blog.