By Emily Richmond of the Education Writer's Association
The Department of Education provides billions of dollars in grants for programs to improve K-12 outcomes. Do they work?
The U.S. Government Accountability Office (GAO) recently released its report on the challenges of assessing grant programs serving K-12 students. Education faces challenges determining whether these programs work. Specifically, problems persist with:
Oversight. For example, some program grant files were missing descriptions of what grantees achieved.
Data quality. Education lacks assurance that some state-submitted data are accurate.
Capacity. A lack of qualified staff has impacted monitoring, and Education hasn’t updated hiring plans in years.
Study design. Measuring long-term outcomes can be difficult.
Click here to read the full report.
For example, one state’s Single Audit found that the pass-through entity improperly determined that subrecipients were low risk despite negative publicity and significant leadership turnover. Auditors disagreed with the pass-through entity that only subrecipients who distribute grants are high risk.
How can an agency be cited for failing
to follow a rule that doesn't exist?
The Council of the Inspectors General on Integrity and Efficiency (CIGIE) launched their Oversight.gov website last year, allowing the public to see the reports and recommendations of 73 Inspectors General offices. According to Michael Horowitz, Justice Department IG and CIGIE chairman, the Inspector Generals are there to ensure that “…taxpayer money is being wisely used, appropriately used, not wasted, and that government programs are being run effectively and efficiently.” The website includes a chart depicting the potential cost savings identified in the reports of the IG over the current fiscal year, usually reaching $20 million. The website allows for further transparency and accountability on behalf of the government.
Read more at: https://federalnewsnetwork.com/management/2017/10/new-inspector-general-website-allows-public-to-oversee-watchdog-work/
Long-buried report concluded Chicago school principal ignored warnings in horrific sexual abuse case
The Chicago Tribune recently reported on a case that Maribeth Vander Weele initiated in 2001 when she served as Inspector General of Chicago Public Schools. The case, disclosed in court records, is relevant today as CPS implements reforms to protect children from sexual violence. Since 2008, police have investigated 523 cases of sexual abuse or assault of students in Chicago Public Schools, the Tribune reported.
By law, school personnel must report even a suspicion of child abuse to the Illinois Department of Children and Family Services.
In 2001, Vander Weele received a complaint that a principal ignored warnings of a sexual predator at Johnson Elementary School, and immediately launched an investigation. Her team learned that in 1986, Marvin Lovett began volunteering at the school and was later hired to run a program for boys. While a trusted mentor for children, he enticed boys to his apartment and secretly made pornographic videotapes using a hidden camera. Vander Weele's team found that Principal Mattie Tyson ignored at least four warnings about Lovett and continued to permit Lovett to volunteer and work at the school. When speaking to investigators, Tyson denied knowing about the abuse or the warnings.
In 2000, a former student and abuse victim shot Lovett to death. After his death, Lovett was accused of sexually abusing 19 boys in the North Lawndale community. The investigation by
Vander Weele's team concluded that "Tyson knew or should have known that Lovett was either an active pedophile or posed a risk to the students at Johnson School" and that she "had reasonable cause to believe that children known to her in her professional or official capacity may have been abused." Her failure to inform child welfare officials was a violation of both CPS policy and state law, Vander Weele’s team concluded.
The Tribune reported that after Vander Weele left the school system in 2002, the findings of her report were overturned with a one-line explanation. In 2018, the report was brought to light in a lawsuit against Chicago Public Schools for failing to protect students from the abuse they endured at the hands of Lovett. This is the largest known case of sexual abuse involving a CPS worker, volunteer, or vendor in recent decades, and has led to $2.7 million in legal settlements.
Tyson was not disciplined and retired in 2004.
In 2003, Maribeth Vander Weele founded the Vander Weele Group, a firm that provides oversight to large-scale programs that serve children and at-risk populations.
Last week the U.S. Senate passed the long-awaited Juvenile Justice Reform Act to improve the Juvenile Justice System and provide better support for children at risk of participating in crime. Such improvements will focus on education and rehabilitation, funding initiatives to support at-risk children in their communities, removing young offenders from adult prisons, and ceasing to imprison youth for minor offenses. There is hope that these reforms will prevent survivors of sexual abuse from being re-traumatized in prison environments, which could have significant impact on the lives of youth given that the majority of incarcerated young women are survivors of sexual abuse. Representative Virginia Foxx, chairwoman of the House on Education and the Workforce, has called the passage of this Act “a major victory for America’s youth…with these reforms, we can meet young people where they are, making enormous progress in prevention and equipping more people to better serve juvenile offenders better and meet the needs of communities. This bill will improve program accountability while promoting evidence-based solutions to give more young adults the tools and skills they need to achieve lifelong success.” Like other Federal laws that authorize grants programs, this legislation contains stringent requirements for grants monitoring.
Read more: https://mailchi.mp/bd0b0f0bb99f/congress-completes-work-on-landmark-juvenile-justice-reform-legislation-139995?e=778e720097
Maintaining integrity should be a key goal of educational leadership. One scandal can mar a system’s reputation irreparably and derail its mission. Knowing the signs of a compromised organization can help school board members reduce risks to reputation. This is more important as the educational landscape becomes increasingly competitive, and families find more options.
One red flag is the deafening silence of underlings in the presence of their supervisors, particularly when questions are directed at them. Employees who don’t speak up are often afraid of retribution. While effective school board members know that day-to-day management should be left to the school leader, they shouldn’t shy away from speaking with staff at every level. Such information is critical for effective oversight. Beware of supervisors who prohibit that.
To learn the signs of a compromised organization click here:
On top of a state audit, Sweetwater schools face $11 million negative fund balance after previously projecting a surplus
Sweetwater Union High School District faces an $11 million negative fund balance despite officials claiming they would end the year with a surplus. The San Diego County Office of Education has commissioned an audit after a state fiscal analysis found the district misrepresented its finances for years, frequently under-reporting its spending and over-estimating its revenue. The analysis found widespread breach of internal controls, which raises red flags for the potential of fraud. The report also highlighted the district’s lack of a comprehensive strategy to repay a $68 million debt due in June. Should the school district officials fail to improve the financial situation, the district may require a state bailout and be taken over by the county’s education office, taking years to regain local control.
Click here to read more
By Lorne Fultonberg
OKLAHOMA CITY - Unconstitutional spending last year means state lawmakers will have to pay the lottery millions before it begins to set the state's education budget.
The Board of Equalization determined last month the state supplanted the education budget with $10 million from the lottery.
Under law, lottery money may only be used as a sort of bonus on top of education funding.
It may not take the place of regular funding.
"Clearly, we've had a problem," said David Blatt, director of the Oklahoma Policy Institute. "Education funding has been cut year after year. This is the first time, however, they've been able to say this is at least in part attributable to lottery money not being used as intended."
Relatively speaking, $10 million is a small chunk of the state's roughly $7 billion - and even the education department's approximately $2.5 billion budget.
But, in a year when lawmakers are already struggling to figure out how to fill a nearly $900 million budget deficit, every dollar counts.
In Fiscal Year 2017, federal agencies reported $8.8 billion in confirmed fraud, according to a new report by the U.S. Government Accountability Office. The GAO report looks at progress made by federal agencies and OMB to reduce fraud risks since Congress enacted the Fraud Reduction and Data Analytics Act of 2015 (FRDAA). That Act requires agencies to establish financial and administrative controls for managing fraud risks, creating a Fraud Risk Framework in the process.
One leading practice described in the Fraud Risk Framework is using the results of monitoring, evaluation, audits, and investigations to improve fraud prevention, detection, and response. In its new report, the GAO said that about 86 percent of agencies indicated that they use results of monitoring, evaluation, audits, and investigations to manage fraud risk, but only 54 percent did so on a regular basis.
The federal agencies’ reports of their fraud risk management activities is illustrated below:
Areas of risk include grant fraud, defined as when award recipients attempt to deceive the government about their spending of award money outside the parameters of the grant. Other high risk areas described in the report are payroll, beneficiary payments, large contracts, and purchase and travel cards.
Click here to read more: https://www.gao.gov/assets/700/695812.pdf
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