Education Funding

Probe Into Ky. Grant Leaps State Borders

By Stephen Sawchuk — September 23, 2008 1 min read
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A federal investigation into the alleged misuse of a $694,000 U.S. Department of Education grant is having ramifications for college and public school administrators in three states.

The probe involves Robert D. Felner, a former dean of the education school at the University of Louisville, Ky., who oversaw the grant. It was created in a 2005 federal spending bill to establish a center at the university to improve student achievement in Kentucky under the federal No Child Left Behind Act.

But university officials found what spokesman John Drees deemed “potential issues” in the grant spending and referred the matter to federal officials in June.

Louisville-based U.S. Attorney David Huber, whose office is spearheading the investigation, could not be reached for comment.

Officials at the Kentucky Department of Education—listed as a partner in the application for the project—said they had not heard of it.

“Nobody knows anything about it,” said Lisa Gross, a department spokeswoman. “We’re scratching our heads.”

Federal investigators have also begun to examine Mr. Felner’s relationship with former employers.

E-mails uncovered by The Courier-Journal, of Louisville, indicate that Mr. Felner apparently directed some funds to a separate research body at the University of Rhode Island, in Kingston, where he worked from 1997 to 2003.

Robert Weygand, the vice president for administration at URI, said that center did some work for the University of Louisville, but URI officials had “no indication whatsoever” that anything might be amiss with payments it received.

Mr. Felner’s lawyer, Scott C. Cox, said that the results of the federal probe, which is expected to be completed in October, will vindicate his client.

The controversy also has spilled over into the 133,000-student Prince George’s County, Md., school district. John E. Deasy, now Prince George’s superintendent, received a doctorate from the University of Louisville after he completed only nine credits there under Mr. Felner.

John White, a spokesman for the Prince George’s system, said that pending the outcome of the investigation, the district school board will decide whether to take any action.

A version of this article appeared in the September 24, 2008 edition of Education Week

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