Two senators with their hands on the K-12 purse strings want to make sure that the share of federal Title I money allotted to help struggling schools is spent well.
Citing a new report from the Government Accountability Office, Sens. Tom Harkin, D-Iowa, and Arlen Specter, R-Pa., say they will be watching closely to make sure the Department of Education is monitoring how states spend the school improvement dollars available under the No Child Left Behind Act.
“It is critically important that the millions of dollars in federal funds going to school improvement be used as effectively as possible to ensure that our students, teachers, and communities continue to meet state academic goals,” Sen. Harkin said in a statement on the report, which the GAO released this week.
“Senator Harkin and I will continue to work with the Department of Education to ensure that No Child Left Behind’s monitoring process is effective and school improvement funds get to schools most in need of assistance,” Sen. Specter said in the same statement.
Sen. Harkin is the chairman of the Senate Labor, Health and Human Services, Education, and Related Agencies Appropriations Subcommittee. Sen. Specter is the panel’s senior Republican. The GAO conducted the research at their request.
The 6-year-old NCLB law requires states to reserve 4 percent of their grants from the law’s Title I program for disadvantaged students to help poor-performing schools under the NCLB law. In the 2008-09 school year, the money set aside would be $556 million. But states are prohibited from setting that money aside if it would result in districts’ losing money.
Because of that condition, 22 states were unable to spend 4 percent of their Title I grant helping turn around struggling schools, the GAO found in its review of state spending since 2002.
The researchers said the Education Department needs to review states’ spending when it monitors their implementation of Title I programs. Not all states followed the rules, they noted. Department officials said they would do so.