This is our September 15, 2011 newsletter. If you want future newsletters emailed to you please register.

Seriation University has been inundated with emails and phone calls from our readers and subscribers asking “where have all the grants gone?” Though the most common response is that the “feds cut funding” the real answer, at least as it applies to the U.S. Department of Education (ED) grant funding, is that it was a combination of poor management and budget cuts. As one example, take the U.S. Department of Education’s Grants to Reduce Alcohol Abuse (GRAA). Monies for the GRAA grants were included in the 2009 budget request to Congress. However, in 2010 the ED officials got the bright idea that instead of multiple grant programs (e.g., GRAA, Elementary and Secondary School Counseling, Mentoring Program, etc.) that they would “collapse” all the funding for these individual programs into one big bucket of funding. The idea seems to have been that by collapsing all the funding into one large bucket grantees could apply, in a single application, for funding to reduce alcohol abuse, improve school counseling programs and create a mentoring program. To make this happen President Obama eliminated funding for GRAA, Elementary and Secondary School Counseling, and the Mentoring Program. He argued these programs were “redundant” given the national activities conducted by ED and thus a single, but larger, source of funding was needed to be maintained only for the national programs.

However, the ED officials forgot a few basic concepts. First, the nation was in a recession and second, collapsing funding categories had to be approved by Congress. It appears that the President and the folks at ED believed that our “do nothing” Congress was going to magically spring into action and pass a reauthorized version of the No Child Left Behind law that mirrored exactly what the President and Secretary of Education Duncan had crafted. Not only did Congress not pass a reauthorized No Child Left Behind Law but they also didn’t pass a budget. Thus, when the Republicans and the “Tea Party” took control of the House of Representatives in 2010 they began their pledge to cut funding. The beauty of their position was that President Obama and Secretary Duncan had already done much of the leg work for them by eliminating GRAA and other programs in the budget.

It is interesting to note that President Obama and Secretary Duncan attempted to resubmit their budget worksheets for Fiscal Year 2011 by eliminating the “President Request” column and replacing it with “2011 Request at Current Law”. In effect, they were saying to Congress I hope you didn’t see all those zero’s in the original budget as this is what we really want now. Too late, Congress saw the President’s original request to eliminate the programs and thus gave him exactly what was asked for-no funding for GRAA.

In the end, school districts that desired to create safe schools and safe communities were left with significantly less funding, ironically, at the request of the “Education President.”