The U.S. Department of Education’s inspector general has found widespread problems with two federally financed civics education programs, including the We the People program, run by the Calibasas, Calif.-based nonprofit Center for Civic Education.
In a review of $7.4 million in spending by the center over a one-year period, auditors found $1.2 million in expenditures was not allowed under federal regulations, and another $4.7 million couldn’t be supported by proper documentation. In addition to We the People, auditors scrutinized the center’s Cooperative Civic Education and Economic Education Exchange Program. Both programs seek to foster civic education in K-12 schools. They are also part of a laundry list of cuts the Obama administration has proposed for the fiscal 2010 Education Department budget.
Among the problems auditors flagged: The center used grant funds to pay settlements to former employees to avoid lawsuits alleging some type of harassment or discrimination; the center spent $3,566 on an airline ticket to India for the executive director’s spouse, who did not work for the center; and center employees spent hundreds of additional dollars on hotel rooms and meals above the standard government allowance. The auditors also found that the center didn’t have basic controls in place to make sure money was spent, and accounted for, appropriately.
In a detailed letter of response, Charles N. Quigley, the centers executive director, stressed that although the audit found some minor, unallowable costs, the organization “performed precisely the work it promised to do, performed that work very well, and effectively and conscientiously served the purpose of each of ED’s grants.” In fact, the center found the audit “unduly harsh, unfair, and at times misleading.”
A version of this article appeared in the December 02, 2009 edition of Education Week as Federal Civics Programs Under Fire