About the Warner Amendment to the Senate ESEA Bill
Regarding the Warner amendment:
1) It does not specifically name financial consultants, though it would allow them. In other words, the state could pay a nonprofit or even their own people employed in a different capacity as consultants;
2) the consultants themselves could already be hired and be paid using the state funding that must accompany ESEA dollars (that is, an ESEA amendment was not required to open the door for consultants to advise away any state or local ed funding, ESEA included– that door was already open), and
3) the ESEA funds that could be used to pay the consultants must come from the approx 1 to 5 percent of federal funds already allotted from each ESEA grant for administrative costs.
On July 08, 2015, the Senate approved by voice vote an amendment to the Senate version of the reauthorization of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA) of 1965, the Every Child Achieves Act of 2015. The amendment in question, Senate Amendment 2086, sponsored by Senator Mark Warner (D- VA), allows states to spend the administrative portion of ESEA funding grants on “fiscal support teams.” Though not explicitly stated in the amendment language, such support teams could include education businesses and consulting firms.
Senator Mark Warner
In response to the above news, on July 09, 2015, investigative journalists David Sirota and Matthew Cunningham-Cook wrote an article in the International Business Times entitled, “Senate Passes Bill Letting Schools Give Education Money to Financial Consulting Firms.” The article implies that the Warner amendment has the potential to funnel ESEA grant funding to consultant bank accounts and away from needy children.
Yes, the amendment grants consultants direct access to ESEA funds– but not to at least 95 percent of it.
For each of the grants in the ESEA document, limits are set regarding how much of the funding can be spent on administrative costs. These limits usually range from 1 to 5 percent. In the case of Warner’s SA 2086, the amendment refers to two sections from No Child Left Behind (NCLB), sections 9201 and 9203, both of which concern consolidation of administrative funds. According to these sections, states (and, under the supervision of states, the local education agencies) are allowed to consolidate the administrative allotments from various ESEA grants “if the State educational agency can demonstrate that the majority of its resources are derived from non-Federal sources.” (NCLB, pg 542).
So, yes, according to NCLB language to be retained as part of the Senate ESEA reauth bill, the state is able to spend ESEA funds on consulting firms; however, the states can only spend from the small percentage of ESEA funding allowed for administrative costs and only if the bulk of the state’s administrative funding comes from sources other than the ESEA money it receives.
Sure, it’s an opportunity for those consultants to make money, but not the unfettered opportunity for ESEA funding exploitation that it might appear to be upon first glance.
Let me be clear that I do not approve of consultants being granted access to any ESEA money. What concerns me is that upon reading the Sirota-Cunninham-Cook article, the public could be misled into believing that as a result of Warner’s amendment, consultants have access to all ESEA funding. This is not true, and the public does not need to be made any twitchier over ESEA than it already is, and by inaccurate reporting.
Schneider is a southern Louisiana native, career teacher, trained researcher, and author of the ed reform whistle blower, A Chronicle of Echoes: Who’s Who In the Implosion of American Public Education.
She also has a second book, Common Core Dilemma: Who Owns Our Schools?, newly published on June 12, 2015.
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