School & District Management

No Surprise Here: Some Federal Reporting Requirements ‘Burdensome’

By Christina A. Samuels — July 24, 2012 1 min read

If you’re a district leader who thinks that reporting requirements surrounding certain federal funding streams are complicated and vague, you’re not alone, according a report released this week from the Government Accountability Office, the investigative arm of Congress.

In a bit of a “dog bites man” assessment, the GAO interviewed state education officials in Kansas, Massachusetts and Ohio, and district officials in four school systems in each of those states. The federal agency found that 17 mandatory reporting requirements were identified in multiple interviews as difficult to fulfill. Of those 17 requirements, seven relate to Title I, which provides federal money to low-income schools; three are connected to the Individuals with Disabilities in Education Act; and four relate to the national school meals programs. Other problematic requirements, from the perspective of the officials interviewed, related to civil rights data collection, (Education Week reported extensively on that data) the Federal Funding and Transparency Act, and federal time distribution reports (the report noted that “in order for state and local federal grant recipients to use federal funds to pay salaries for their employees, they must document the employees’ time spent on federally funded activities.)

The GAO report was generated at the request of Reps. John Kline, a Republican representative from Minnesota and the chairman of the House Committee on Education and the Workforce, and Richard Hanna, a Republican representative from New York.

The school officials interviewed by the GAO did concede that some reports were useful to maintain fairness and integrity of the programs, but that they still took a lot of time and effort. The U.S. Department of Education disagreed, saying that duplicated reporting requirements are minimal, as is the burden they impose, and that the department has limited ability to drop some requirements without approval from Congress.

It doesn’t look like change to reporting requirements is imminent. So let me ask a question to district leaders: do you find federal reporting requirements burdensome, and what’s the most difficult one that you have to routinely fulfill?

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A version of this news article first appeared in the District Dossier blog.