The Government Accountability Office (GAO) released a report last week on the fiscal accountability of D.C. Public Schools (DCPS). While their analysis suggests that DCPS has “enhanced internal controls over federal payments for school improvement,” it also clearly shows that the well-known inefficiencies of the school system persist.
According to the Washington Times:
The Government Accountability Office report said the D.C. Office of the State Superintendent (OSSE) “continues to be designated as a “‘high risk’ grantee” and that D.C. Public Schools (DCPS) continues to have “systemic problems in its internal controls” of federal funds.
An example of the mismanagement of these funds is outlined in the GAO report:
For the period between 2004 and 2008, D.C. provided expenditure data showing that DCPS used federal payments to fund a variety of programs.
However, DCPS “could not locate detailed programmatic information on most expenditures to explain the goals, objectives, activities, and outcomes of these programs and we cannot, therefore, fully describe the use of federal payments for these years.”
Furthermore, GAO reported problems with accountability and oversight, noting “inconsistent documentation of monitoring activities” and a “lack of required evaluations on contractors’ performance” for many of these federally funded programs.
Moreover, in some cases, when a program officer left, no one was reassigned to monitor the program.
It is not surprising then that, “4 of the 14 contract files … reviewed—totaling $2.7 million—were missing performance evaluations, and evaluations of 3 additional contractors were not completed within the required time frames.”
Building on such facts, it should also come as no shock that DCPS produces the worst student test scores in the nation.
However, what should be shocking is that an effective education program in D.C.—the D.C. Opportunity Scholarship Program (DCOSP)—that is helping students succeed academically, is loved by parents, and allows students to attend safer schools, is currently being forced to fight for its survival. The program effective is not only effective but also efficient: The scholarships are worth $7,500 each, compared to the nearly $19,000 per-pupil spending by DCPS.
Yet while DCPS continues to receive ever-increasing funding, Congress has diminished funding for this successful scholarship program and is barring new students from entering. Interestingly, for the scholarship program to be authorized in the first place, Congress had to agree to give D.C. public schools additional money, enough to match the amount that would go to the DCOSP ($13 million). But while the public funds continue to flow to the public schools, a program that has proven itself and has the potential to help many more children is hanging on for life.
Said Representative Darrell Issa (R-CA):
The D.C. Public School system continues business as usual and is plagued by a lack of accountability. … In cutting off Opportunity Scholarships, it’s deeply troubling that poor D.C. school children have no alternatives for getting an education.
Instead of throwing more money into an inefficient system, let’s pursue a policy that “works” and open the doors of education opportunity with successful programs like the DCOSP.