The $10Million Question

Filed in Uncategorized by on April 2, 2015 1 Comment

Now that testing season has begun there are a lot of threats going around about what is going to happen if Idaho doesn’t reach the 95% testing requirement in No Child Left Behind and the NCBL Waiver.  When I asked some very pointed questions to the State Department of Education I received this reply,

“If you are in possession of the Alaska Letter we are told- change the name to Idaho.
Second,  they do not intend to punish they just want their money back because the contract we signed we also breached by not meeting 95%.”

After reading through the Alaska letter I realized it basically outlines a list of consequences in relation to question 3. What are the consequences if the State or district fails to adhere to the Federal Assessment requirements?

1. Sending a written request to the SEA (State Education Association, in Idaho this is the State Department of Education) that it come into compliance.

2. Increasing monitoring.

3. Placing conditions on SEA Title I, Part A grant award.

4. Placing conditions on flexibility waiver request.

5. Placing the SEA on high risk status.

6. Issuing cease and desist orders.

7. Entering into compliance agreement with the SEA to secure compliance.

8. Withdrawing all or a portion of SEA’s Title I, part A administrative funds. (ESEA 1111(g)(2))

9. Suspending and then withholding all or a portion of the State Title I, Part A programmatic funds. (GEPA 455)


This is exactly the same list that was given to Colorado.

The first seven don’t really do anything. So the focus needs to be on the last two:

8. Withdrawing all or a portion of SEA’s Title I, part A administrative funds. (ESEA 1111(g)(2))

The Alaska and Colorado letters said, “ED has, in fact withheld Title I Part A administrative funds under ESEA section 1111 (g) from a number of states for failure to comply with the assessment requirements in ESEA section 1111(b)(3)”

So, what exactly does this mean?

In response to the Colorado letter, Ze’ev Wurman commented,

8 “…is the taking away (typically only a fraction of, say 10%) of the set-aside administrative state funds (1% of Title I state funds) — rather little money really, but the state dept. of ed. will squeal like a stuck pig because it’s ‘their free money.’”

So, we’re only talking about 10% of 1% of our Title I funds or .1% of our Title I funds!

Alaska gets $38 million annually in Title I funds, Idaho receives $58 million.  If you do the math, 10% of set-aside funds are $38 thousand and $58 thousand respectively.  This is much smaller than the $10 million we’ve been led to believe is on the line.   (Maybe Common Core Math comes up with a different answer but this is  the conclusion you come to with traditional math.)

9. Suspending and then withholding all or a portion of the State Title I, Part A programmatic funds. (GEPA 455)

Again according to Ze’ev’s response to Colorado,

“The last one is taking away Title I money from students itself — it will never happen as the political backlash of taking money from the most vulnerable students to punish the state will never fly. Unless Colorado is *singularly* incompetent in PR battles and it’s administration and US Senators and Representatives are uniquely incompetent. In the pre ESEA-reauthorization climate we are entering now anyone half-competent should win with the feds.”


Now, let’s have a little history lesson for context.

In 2008 the US Department of Education got angry at California for what ED treated as flaunting the NCLB demands that all students in grades 3-8 will be tested with the same test. At the time, California offered two tests to its 8th graders – Algebra I to those who were ready and “General Grade 8 Mathematics” to those who were not. ED sent this letter to California fining it $1M (Calif. had, at the time, about $1.6B in Title I, or $16M set-aside, so $1M was about 6% of the set-aside). Even this small fine was never implemented after California challenged it and threatened to sue.

In 2013 California decided to let its old state test expire, a full year before Common Core testing was to be available, creating a year-long accountability void. ED went on an aggressive campaign threatening California with withholding not only set-aside funds, but programmatic funds as well. Six month later, with a whimper, ED backed off and approved the California plan after a vocal public relations battle in the press.

Then, in late 2014 California announced, yet again, that it does not intend to apply the 2014-15 new Common Core assessment results to its accountability plan. ED, yet again,  responded with threats and anger, yet shortly later it effectively capitulated.

The moral of this brief history is simple. ED, by its nature, is driven by politics more than by policy. When the policy is broadly approved then ED applies it as written. When the policy is broadly resented, ED prefers to avoid duking it out with state agencies in public view, knowing that much of its policy implementation depends on the good will of the states and cannot be controlled from Washington, DC.

The chances of Idaho losing over $10million in federal funding is virtually nil, unless our officials are, “…*singularly* incompetent in PR battles and it’s administration and US Senators and Representatives are uniquely incompetent.”

So the question here is, how incompetent are our Idaho Officials? Would they really sit back an allow this to happen without any sort of PR battle or would they fight to reinstate state sovereignty?  Do we have lemmings or leaders in office?

Are you going to be kowtowed by your district officials over a grand total of $58,000?

 (As an aside, the federal government is $18 trillion in debt.  Why are we clinging to money that’s not really there anyway?)


Thanks to Ze’ev Wurman for doing most of the work for this post.

Comments (1)

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  1. Mary Ollie says:

    Kinda pales in comparison to Schoolnet! That mess cost $61 million. And then there is the Idaho Education Network. If anything, these fiascoes illustrate it is better to keep money and governance close to home. Local districts need to exercise governance by following the lead of the Madison district.

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