ED stalls on release of LEA MOE/CEIS info

Many months ago we applauded the U.S. Dept. of Education’s (USED) decision to request additional data from states regarding reduction to local spending on special education (MOE) taken by school districts in light of the IDEA Recovery Act funds.

While we weren’t happy with the delay in the submission date to May 1, 2011 (moved from November 2010), we decided to wait patiently. So we waited.

On April 15, 2011, in anticipation of the due date of May 1st, we dutifully submitted a request under the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) to the U.S. Dept. of Education for the data. Then we waited.

The data were to be submitted via the web to the Data Accountability Center (DAC) here.

On June 7, 2011, we received the following response from USED:

Good Afternoon Ms. Boundy,

Based on reviews of FOIA request 11-01314-F, Department resources, and a discussion with the Office of Special Education Programs’ (OSEP), please see the language below that is responsive to your request.

On April 15, 2011, you requested “a copy of an electronic version of the complete data due to be submitted by the States on or about May 1, 2011” responsive to the Report on IDEA Part B Maintenance of Effort Reduction (34 CFR §300.205(a)) and Coordinated Early Intervening Services (34 CFR §300.226) FFY 2009 Table 8.  The complete data you requested are not available at this time; thus, the Department does not maintain records responsive to your FOIA request.  Once the Department has received the data at issue from all States and ensured the accuracy and completeness of such submissions, the Department will make the data (after legally appropriate redactions) publicly available.  Please contact me if you have questions.  Thank you.

Patricia Wright
U. S. Department of Education
Office of Special Education and Rehabilitative Services
Office of the Assistant Secretary
Grants, Contracts and Services Team
202 245-7620 – Phone
202 245-7635 – Fax
patricia.wright@ed.gov

We are disappointed and baffled by this response. Clearly USED is in possession of this information, since it was submitted to their contractor per the instructions issued in the Table 8 memo, “States must submit electronic versions of complete data to the Office of Special Education Programs (OSEP) via its data contractor.”

In requesting this additional data collection, USED stated (Federal Register, July 27, 2009, page 37020) that:

OSEP has not previously exercised its authority under 20 U.S.C. 1418(a)(3), which allows the Secretary to annually collect any information that may be needed to implement IDEA, to collect the information describe above because the Part B amounts received by LEAs from fiscal year to fiscal year rarely increased by an amount that would warrant an LEA to take advantage of the provisions of 34 CFR 300.205(a). Further, it has been assumed that LEAs are exercising their responsibilities under 34 CFR 300.226(d). However, due to the enactment of ARRA and the disbursement of $11.7 billion in IDEA Part B ARRA funds to LEAs (in addition to the regular FY 09 appropriation of $11.8 billion), the FY 2009 allocation for more LEAs far exceed those of FY 2008; thereby making it advantageous for these LEAs to reduce their MOE under 34 CFR 300.205 (a) and to reserve an amount under 34 CFR 300.226 to provide CEIS. Therefore, it is now necessary to collect information on the implementation of 34 CFR §§ 300.205 (a) and 300.226. Collecting this information will allow the Department to Monitor the reduction of MOE; Determine the amount of FY 2009 Part B funds (both regular IDEA and IDEA ARRA funds) reserved for CEIS; Exercise our fiduciary responsibilities to prevent fraud, waste and abuse and to ensure the effective use of FY 2009 Part B funds; Provide information to Congress and the public regarding LEAs that took advantage of these flexibilities.

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