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Dec 12 -- The Institute of Education Sciences (IES), Department of Education (ED), invites comments to OMB by January 11, 2024 regarding the  Study of District and School Uses of Federal Education Funds.

Federal funds account for less than 10 percent of K–12 education spending nationally but can play an important role, particularly in communities that are lower-income or have lower-performing schools. Although each federal education program has unique goals and provisions, they often allow funds to be used for similar purposes and services or overlapping populations. Congress provided state and local education agencies greater flexibility in their use of federal funds through the 2015 reauthorization of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA). As the COVID–19 pandemic began to disrupt schools in 2020, Congress also created new programs to provide funding and flexibilities for states and districts to respond to the emergency. Because policymakers remain interested in how federal dollars are spent, this study will examine the distribution and use of pandemic relief funds and explore the possibility of examining those issues for five “core” federal education programs that represent the vast share of the Department's K–12 grant making: Part A of Titles I, II, III, and IV of ESEA, and Title I, Part B of the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA).

The five federal education programs covered in this study provide over $33 billion annually to support elementary and secondary schools and their students, or about 80 percent of total funding for elementary-secondary programs administered by the U.S. Department of Education. Obtaining objective information on how federal funds are targeted and used is central to understanding whether and how these programs are meeting program goals. Other evaluations of individual federal programs provide information on the types of services that are supported under each program, typically based on surveys of educators who deliver those services at the district and school levels – but the fiscal data collected through this study provide more detailed, concrete, and objective information on the amounts of funds allocated for various purposes as well as how funds are distributed among grantees. In addition, looking across federal programs provides a more comprehensive view of federal support given that many of the programs can fund similar purposes.

The data are being collected by SRI and its partner, Augenblick, Palaich & Associates. To date, the study has collected the following data:

State extant data
-- State suballocations of federal program funds
-- State chart of accounts

District fiscal and personnel data
-- Amounts of revenues and expenditures
-- The source of the funds (e.g., Title I, Part A; Title II, Part A)
-- What activities the expenditures went towards, as described in the accounting system
-- The location that benefited from the expenditure (e.g., specific school, central office)
-- Full-time equivalent (FTE) positions by job type (e.g., teacher, principal)
-- The source of funds to pay for those positions (e.g., Title I, Part A; Title II, Part A)
-- Where the positions were located (e.g., specific school, central office)
-- The salary and benefits associated with a position

The originally-approved data collection activities included requests for state extant data and district fiscal and personnel data; a survey of district and school officials; and district and school interviews. The study team collected initial district revenue data from states, and fiscal and personnel data from districts, but requires additional time to complete that round due to the complexities of finance data.

To proceed with more in-depth validation checks, the study team first had to “crosswalk” the various COAs. A state’s COA provides the guidance for how to categorize expenses and revenues in a way that allows for uniform financial reporting for its districts. States vary in the structure and level of detail included in their COA, and states, and sometimes districts within states, do not have common definitions of location codes, accounting codes, and job type codes. After devoting significant time creating crosswalks that harmonized roughly 4,000 accounting codes from each district’s finance data and enabled comparisons of sample data with other sources of school finance information, the study team determined that additional follow-up should take place with districts in the sample. Overall, this validation process took place from 2022 to spring 2023 and identified many districts with discrepancies across sources that needs to be resolved.

Due to the significant time spent developing the crosswalks and implementing the data validation process, it is not feasible to complete this routine follow-up before the current clearance expires on February 29, 2024. Therefore, this package requests an extension of the expiration date by one year, to February 28, 2025. Such an extension is needed to guarantee enough time and flexibility to complete these critical data collection activities and fully address the study’s research questions.

Although the five ESEA and IDEA programs in this study accounted for four-fifths of federal funding for elementary and secondary education in FY 2020, detailed fiscal data have not been collected on most of these programs since 2004-05. The data from the Department’s last cross-cutting study of resource allocation are now 14 years old and reflect ESEA programs and provisions that existed prior to the 2016 reauthorization. For IDEA, which was not included in the 2004-05 cross-cutting study, the most recent collection of detailed fiscal data was conducted by the Center for Special Education Finance (CSEF), which was discontinued in 2004.

Study of District and School Uses of Federal Education Funds: https://ies.ed.gov/ncee/projects/evaluation/usesoffunds.asp
IES submission to OMB: https://www.reginfo.gov/public/do/PRAViewICR?ref_nbr=202309-1850-004 Click IC List for information collection instrument, View Supporting Statement for technical documentation. Submit comments through this webpage.
FRN: https://www.federalregister.gov/d/2023-27209

For AEA members wishing to submit comments, "A Primer on How to Respond to Calls for Comment on Federal Data Collections" is available at https://www.aeaweb.org/content/file?id=5806

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