Archive for the ‘Recovery Act’ Category

New Year Brings New Recovery Board Chair

January 4, 2012

By Andrew Seifter, Good Jobs First

President Obama has appointed Kathleen S. Tighe, Inspector General of the Department of Education, as the new chair of the Recovery Accountability and Transparency Board.  Tighe replaces Earl Devaney, who held the post since the Recovery Act was enacted in February 2009, but announced last month that he was retiring.

As an existing member of the Recovery Board (which consists of cabinet agency Inspectors General), Tighe has demonstrated a strong record of cracking down on fraud and misuse of government funds, so she is a logical, if conventional, choice to replace Devaney.  In a press release announcing her appointment, the Recovery Board highlighted several instances in which Tighe helped win settlements or convictions against fraudulent companies or individuals, including a former City University of New York employee who was convicted for trying to “scam more than $1.5 million in Re­covery Act grant funds.”  According to Tighe’s November 2011 Report to Congress, the case involved a former employee at the University’s Research Foundation who had presented two fraudulent Grant Award Notifications that were discovered by an official who had recently participated in a Recovery Act grant fraud awareness training provided by Tighe’s office.

Tighe also continues to serve as a member of the Government Accountability and Transparency (GAT) Board, suggesting that she will remain a critical player in ongoing efforts to transfer the accountability measures of the Recovery Act to all federal spending.  The GAT Board has been active of late, issuing three key recommendations to the President in December.

As I surmised from reading Devaney’s resignation letter and his final “Chairman’s Corner” column, one of the GAT Board recommendations is for a uniform ID system for all federal spending projects.  The Board wisely suggests that in pursuing this goal the government incorporate standardization efforts already underway at the Federal Acquisition Regulatory Council and the Treasury Department.  The other recommendations are somewhat broader: adopt a “cohesive, centralized accountability framework” to track spending, and reevaluate the methods the government employs to collect and display data.

The GAT Board mentioned one benefit of data standardization, in particular, that got our attention at Good Jobs First: it would “foster a common understanding of data between the Federal Government and the states, which are the largest recipients of Federal funds.”  We’d consider that a huge step forward for spending transparency, based on our experience tracking the Recovery Act.  Although the Stimulus has pushed the states toward improved disclosure, all too often certain information about both spending and outcomes (such as job impact) has been lost in translation as money moved from the federal government to state agencies that then passed it on to local recipients.

We also strongly support the GAT Board in urging the government to “stay on the cutting edge” by constantly exploring ways to make use of advances in technology such as geospatial services.  We’ve seen for ourselves that the possibilities in this regard are far greater than they were years, even months ago.  As the state of technology continues to improve, the bar for transparency must continue to rise.

Many of the GAT Board’s observations and recommendations are a direct result of the Recovery Act, and not just because it provided a powerful model for tracking billions of dollars of government funds.  The Recovery Act also moved the conversation forward by highlighting the limitations of the current system.

For example, the Recovery Act has pressed federal agencies to improve their internal reporting procedures and address problems with existing protocols.  As Recovery Board member and Department of Commerce IG Todd J. Zinser said in November 30 testimony to the House Science, Space and Technology Subcommittee on Oversight and Investigations, the Commerce Department met Recovery Act reporting requirements, but only by “performing many manual procedures to compensate for grant and contract system inadequacies.”  Zinser’s remarks bring to mind Director Mike Wood’s comment last spring that a Deputy Secretary at the Department of Housing and Urban Development told him that HUD “changed their whole management structure … based on how they ran their Recovery program.”

Leaving a Lasting Legacy, Devaney Can Depart Recovery Board with Head Held High

December 14, 2011

By Andrew Seifter, Good Jobs First

Earl Devaney, who as Chairman of the Recovery Accountability and Transparency Board oversaw implementation of the Recovery Act’s revolutionary accountability measures, is retiring.

A longtime civil servant with a breadth of experience in law enforcement, Devaney proved during his tenure on the Recovery Board that enhanced transparency not only keeps the public informed of the costs and benefits of government spending projects; it also prevents waste and fraud.

While law enforcement officials still aggressively use the full weight of the law to go after instances of fraud, the bright light that the Recovery Act has shined on the flow of funds has made scammers think twice before trying to cheat Uncle Sam.  As Devaney recently told the Washington Post, “I think this [Recovery Act] money was so transparent that guys that really commit big frauds … didn’t come near this money.” director Michael Wood has similarly credited transparency for the Recovery Act’s “very low non-compliance rate” and “extremely low” fraud rate.

Devaney’s work is also a testament to the bipartisan nature of support for spending transparency and accountability.  Even on an issue as politically polarizing as the Recovery Act, Devaney’s efforts to police stimulus funds are respected on both sides of the aisle.  How many other officials in Washington, upon announcing their retirement, could draw effusive praise from both Vice President Biden and Republican Congressman Darrell Issa?

In addition to leaving the Recovery Board, Devaney is also resigning as Chairman of the Government Accountability and Transparency Board (GATB), the institution President Obama created this year and tasked with expanding the Recovery Act’s transparency measures to all federal spending.  In his resignation letter, Devaney hinted that the GATB is “on the verge of proposing concrete methods to increase accountability and transparency of all Federal funds.”

On November 21, Devaney devoted his final “Chairman’s Corner” column to making the case for a “uniform government-wide award identification number” for federal spending. This administrative restructuring, he argued, is essential for full spending transparency and will save the government both time and money.  We’ll see if this recommendation is part of the forthcoming GATB proposal that he referenced.

No doubt a very busy man, there is one other position that Devaney is stepping down from before riding off into the sunset: Inspector General of the Interior Department.  Among his many accomplishments while serving in that post, which he’s held since 1999, Devaney oversaw investigations that led to the well-publicized conviction of lobbyist Jack Abramoff.

California Latest State to Do Away With Recovery Act Website

July 21, 2011

It’s no longer just Republican governors who openly oppose the federal stimulus law who have stripped or shut down their states’ Recovery Act websites.  As of July 1, the stimulus website in California, the biggest of the blue states, is no more.

Perhaps it’s not so surprising that California Gov. Jerry Brown (D) has decided to get rid of the state website dedicated to tracking Recovery Act funds.  Before he even took office, Brown announced in December 2010 that he was eliminating the state’s Office of the Inspector General, which oversaw California’s use of Recovery Act funds.  At the time, Brown said that the Office was redundant and unaffordable for a state facing a multi-billion dollar budget deficit.  We can probably assume that the decision to eliminate the state’s stimulus website also comes out of budgetary concerns.

At the web address that used to host the California Recovery Act website, there is now only a message that reads: “As of July 1, 2011 the California Recovery website has been discontinued. Recovery Act data is available on the Federal Recovery website at”  But as we’ve argued at Good Jobs First, simply directing residents to the federal Recovery Act site is not enough.  Effective state stimulus websites provide more state-specific funding and program details than the federal website.

On the one hand, we recognize that states are facing really tough budget shortfalls and have had to make tough decisions; some worthwhile programs must be cut.  But as Collins Center Vice President Leda Perez has pointed out, you can’t put a price tag on the value of transparent and open government.  And although many stimulus funds are drying up this year (thereby exacerbating state budget shortfalls), state agencies in California and across the country will continue to oversee large sums of Recovery Act funds through 2013.

Keeping that in mind, the concern here is that states may be prematurely “moving on” from the Recovery Act, and that type of attitude could become increasingly prevalent in the months ahead.  In addition to the states we’ve chronicled that have taken down their stimulus websites, there’s also New Hampshire and New Mexico, which recently announced that they are shutting down the state Recovery Act offices that were created to run their websites and more broadly oversee stimulus spending.   In announcing that they are closing up shop, the New Hampshire Office of Economic Stimulus added that the state’s stimulus website will only remain active until December 31.  We’ll probably soon be hearing about other states that are shutting down Recovery Act offices and websites.

In many ways, the Recovery Act has been a boon to transparency and accountability.  States shouldn’t let the ongoing phase-out of stimulus funds tempt them to return to business as usual.

Recovery Act Shapes Push for More Federal Spending Transparency

June 17, 2011

(This post originally appeared on the States for a Transparent and Accountable Recovery blog).

Last month, Director Michael Wood mentioned that Congress, the White House and the Inspectors General community were all behind using the Recovery Act’s landmark transparency measures as a model for broader federal disclosure.  Now that support has led to action; in coordinated efforts, the executive and legislative branches each signaled this week that they are serious about improving federal spending transparency based on some of the institutions and procedures that were created to track Recovery Act funds.

On June 13, President Obama issued an executive order creating a Government Accountability and Transparency Board, modeled after the Recovery Board, which will “provide strategic direction for enhancing the transparency of Federal spending and advance efforts to detect and remediate fraud, waste, and abuse in Federal programs.”  That same day, Rep. Darrell Issa (R-CA), chairman of the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee, introduced the Digital Accountability and Transparency Act (DATA Act), which also calls for the creation of an independent agency to track federal spending that is based on the Recovery Board.  Sen. Mark Warner (D-VA) introduced the Senate version of the DATA Act on June 16.

Our friends at OMB Watch have already broken down some of the pros and cons of the DATA Act, but here are some key aspects of the legislation:

  • The new agency, known as the Federal Accountability and Spending Transparency (FAST) Board, would take over the responsibilities of the Recovery Board.  The FAST Board would oversee all federal spending disclosure and take over from the Office of Management and Budget.
  • The DATA Act would create common data elements and reporting standards and a single web-based platform for publishing all federal spending information.
  • The reporting requirements would apply to all recipients of federal funds except for those individuals who, during that calendar year or fiscal year, have received less than $100,000 and were not involved in a transaction of $25,000 or more.
  • The FAST Board would collect both recipient-reported data and agency-reported data, and would work with the agencies to investigate any incongruities.  OMB Watch proposes that the DATA Act include Treasury Department data instead of less accurate agency-reported data.
  • The DATA Act does not address federal tax expenditures.
  • The DATA Act would sunset on September 30, 2018, and would repeal the Federal Funding Accountability and Transparency Act of 2006, the legislation sponsored by Sen. Tom Coburn (R-OK) and then-Sen. Obama that created  OMB Watch argues that “[i]t is a bad idea to repeal a permanent law and replace it with a temporary law,” and that Congress should instead amend the Federal Funding Accountability and Transparency Act to include the DATA Act’s recipient reporting and data standardization provisions.

It remains to be seen what the final version of this legislation will look like.  But with strong bipartisan support for transparency in Washington, the prospects for meaningful progress are bright, thanks in no small part to the Recovery Act.

Expiration of Stimulus Funds Means Higher Costs for Higher Education

June 15, 2011

(This post originally appeared on the States for a Transparent and Accountable Recovery blog).

A couple months ago, I detailed in this space how the end of federal stimulus support is putting the squeeze on states’ K-12 education budgets, forcing school boards across the country to grapple with teacher layoffs, larger class sizes, fewer school programs and shorter school days.  But the pain isn’t only being felt by K-12 teachers and students; it also extends to public university students and their families, many of whom are facing major hikes in tuition and fees as Recovery Act funds for higher education come to an end.

As the Pew Center on the States’ Stateline news service explains, lawmakers facing severe budget crunches have “targeted higher ed because it’s easier to cut — legally, politically and logistically — than K-12 schools, roads, prisons or health care.”  As a result, “higher education continued to bear the brunt of state budget cuts in 2011.” These cuts, necessitated in large part by the expiration of stimulus funds, have forced public colleges and universities to raise tuition rates, often dramatically:

  • As Stateline noted, state support for the University of Washington has been cut from $400 million to $200 million, causing tuition to “rise by at least 16 percent next year.”
  • State budget cuts have “prompted a 20 percent increase in tuition at Arizona State University,” according to Stateline.
  • The Associated Press reported that the Florida state legislature has “approved an 8-percent tuition increase and most if not all” of the state’s 11 public universities “are expected to seek the board’s permission for an addition 7 percent, the legal limit.”  The spending cuts, the AP notes, “are due almost entirely to the expiration of federal stimulus funding the universities have received in the current budget year.”
  • In a separate article, the AP noted that the chancellor of the Tennessee Board of Regents cited “the evaporation of federal recovery act funds” in announcing that “[s]tudents attending Tennessee colleges and universities could see a tuition increase of 9.5 percent or more this fall.”
  • As the Boston Globe recently reported, the University of Massachusetts’ Board of Trustees has approved a plan that “will increase tuition and fees by 7.5 percent, meaning the average in-state undergrad will pay $11,838, an $826 increase from the academic year that recently ended.”  According to University officials, “the fee hike was necessary mainly because a federal stimulus program, which provided $38 million in funding this year, has ended.”
  • Wright State University in Ohio has raised tuition to the 3.5 percent state cap ($273 per year) to help offset the largest reduction in state funding in the school’s history, the Dayton Daily News reported. In response to these state budget cuts, which “come mainly from a loss of federal stimulus money that was not replaced,” the University of Cincinnati has also raised tuition to the cap, Miami University and Ohio State University are expected to do the same, and less expensive community colleges are seeking state lawmakers’ approval to raise tuition rates more than 3.5 percent.

A college education has long been recognized as a path to financial security, but with tuitions on the rise, more and more prospective students may lack the resources they need to make the dream of attending college a reality. Higher costs also impact those who are struggling to find work; in periods of high unemployment like today, many people go back to school to retool and gain new skills, but higher tuition rates may take this option off the table for those with more limited means.  Then there’s the big picture: Making college less affordable seems like precisely the wrong thing to do in an increasingly competitive global economy where those nations that invest in a skilled and educated workforce have the best hopes of future prosperity.

For all of these reasons, steep tuition hikes at traditionally affordable public institutions could exacerbate our economic troubles.  But that’s precisely the situation we find ourselves in as the Recovery Act moves into the rearview mirror with no more federal support in sight.

Traffic Citation: The Scott Administration’s Faulty Rationale for Dismantling Florida’s Stimulus Website

May 18, 2011

(This post originally appeared on the States for a Transparent and Accountable Recovery blog).

Leda Perez’s recent column challenged the Rick Scott administration’s central justification for severely downgrading Florida’s Recovery Act website: that the website was “not used that much.”  I’ve already touched on Perez’s column a bit, but she really got to the crux of the issue when she asked: “Should we eliminate [Freedom of Information access] because an insufficient number of people make requests? Or, should Congress or presidents simply be appointed because an insufficient number of people exercise their voting rights?”

Indeed, transparency, openness and accountability are essential democratic principles and governments should preserve tools that promote those principles no matter how infrequently they are used. 

But even if it’s a poor defense for gutting the stimulus website, it is worth exploring the Scott administration’s claim that the website was “not used that much.”  Perez referenced the “apparent selectivity in what public information remains available via web portals,” and that got us thinking: Just how many viewers did the Florida Recovery Act website attract before the Scott administration gutted it, and how does that compare to other state websites that are maintained at taxpayers’ expense?

We don’t know how the Scott administration evaluated the Recovery Act website beyond spokesman Brian Burgess’s statement on Twitter that “we actually analyzed hard visitor traffic data (at least what was available).”  But here’s what that “hard visitor traffic data” shows, according to, a company that tracks web traffic data: The website maintained by then-Governor Charlie Crist had between 1,296 and 5,501 unique visitors per month from April-November 2010, and averaged 2,907 monthly visitors during that period.

Those are hardly earth-shattering figures, but remember that those thousands of monthly visitors to the website consist of contractors looking to hire workers, people looking for jobs, public interest groups organizing around important causes and highly-engaged citizens who want to keep tabs on how their tax dollars are being spent.  Each of these people only count as one visitor, but depending on how they use the website it could have a big impact on their companies, families, neighbors, and even entire communities.

Then there’s the “selectivity” issue that Perez raised.  The traffic figures for the stimulus website that Scott dismantled are comparable to plenty of other state websites that haven’t been taken down.  Here are some examples:

None of this is to suggest that these sites should be taken down.  But why won’t the Scott administration treat the Recovery Act with as much taxpayer respect as the state treats consumer protection, child literacy, hurricane preparedness and the Florida sports industry?

Recovery Board’s Mike Wood Addresses the Once and Future Impact of

May 6, 2011

(This post originally appeared on the States for a Transparent and Accountable Recovery blog).

During a May 4 webinar hosted by Government Executive, Director Mike Wood shared some interesting thoughts about the lessons of the Recovery Board’s work and what the future holds for transparency in federal reporting.

Wood described the Recovery Act and as a “sea change in the way the government has done business.”  At one point, he recounted how a Deputy Secretary at the Department of Housing and Urban Development told him that the agency “changed their whole management structure … based on how they ran their Recovery program.”  But for the most part, Wood stayed focused on the impact of the landmark website that he oversees.

In particular, he credited the level of transparency on with the Recovery Act’s “very low non-compliance rate” and “extremely low” fraud rate.  “We will look at fraud after it occurs and try to recoup the money or bring people to justice, but it’s much more satisfying to prevent fraud,” Wood said, “and I think the fraud prevention efforts are much more successful because of our transparency efforts.”

Wood acknowledged that there have been fewer “citizen IGs” using the website to make “hotline complaints” than was initially hoped, although that could just be another sign that the Recovery Act has been largely free of fraud and abuse.  Still, he suggested that “as people get more used to” the types of accountability features on, they might use them more frequently.

He also addressed the most pressing question raised by the experience: what impact will the Recovery Board’s transparency and accountability efforts have on other forms of federal expenditures?

Wood explained that the Recovery Board created, a separate website that is initially tracking the $10 billion Education Jobs Fund, in part as “a tool to show that can be used as a template” for future federal reporting.  Then, as the webinar came to a close, he struck a particularly optimistic tone about the prospects of enhanced federal reporting beyond the Recovery Act.

Although the Recovery Board sunsets in 2013, Wood said that Congress, the White House and the Inspectors General community have all expressed interest in “capturing these lessons that we’ve learned and continuing on with some of the good things that have happened” with  Among the proposals that should be on the table, in Wood’s view, are creating a broader Accountability and Transparency Board that is not limited to the Recovery Act and transferring’s reporting and presentation technology to the Treasury Department.

We should know more in six months, he predicted.  “It’s not clear now what shape that will take, but there’s enough people in Washington talking about it that I think something will happen.”

Governors React to Questions about Stripped Down Recovery Act Websites

May 3, 2011

(This post originally appeared on the States for a Transparent and Accountable Recovery blog).

We now have official responses from all three governors that Good Jobs First identified last week as having dramatically downgraded their states’ Recovery Act websites.

As we documented in our initial blog post on the subject, Kansas Gov. Sam Brownback’s press secretary, Sherriene Jones-Sontag, questioned whether federal stimulus information is part of “the public discussion in Kansas” and said the Brownback administration is “not really promoting” the Recovery Act because it is trying to “get Kansas to live within its means.”  In media reports in Ohio and Florida over the last few days, Ohio Gov. John Kasich and Florida Gov. Rick Scott have also defended their respective decisions to deny taxpayers a fully-informed debate about the Recovery Act:

  • In an email to Columbus Business First, Kasich spokesman Rob Nichols claimed “Ohio lost 150,000 jobs under the so-called ‘stimulus’ program,” and added: “Literally, thousands of Ohio communities and schools put off much-needed reforms because one-time stimulus funds gave them a false sense of prosperity. Trying to paper over that kind of failure with a fancy website isn’t a priority.”


  • As reported by The Sarasota Herald Tribune, Scott spokesman Brian Burgess said, “We decided we wouldn’t do anything to promote the stimulus program” because “[t]he governor clearly doesn’t believe in it.”  He also said the move was motivated by a desire to “not put a ton of energy or spend tax dollars on content that few people read.”

Burgess returned to the “price tag” argument several times during a Twitter exchange with Collins Center Director of Online Strategies Dan Bevarly.  Burgess said the Scott administration had found that the ARRA website had low traffic and asked Bevarly, “how much are citizens willing to pay for the engagement of so few?”  Bevarly responded, in part, by noting that governments promote citizen participation when they share data and that in the case of Florida the cost argument rings hollow because “data on projects, spending & jobs was already online & removed.”

In a blog post on the topic, Bevarly added: “Making assumptions on behalf of what public information to make available to citizens based on the perceived public’s interest or lack thereof goes against principles of democracy.  It becomes controversial once the information removed has already been published.” Collins Center Vice President Leda Perez also addressed Burgess’s comments in a column posted on the Collins Center website.  Among Perez’s key points was that “We cannot treat public information as a commodity to be placed in the market only if people are willing to pay for it,” and that “[a] government committed to [transparency and government openness] might actually invest resources in order to create this demand for information.”

Burgess ultimately abandoned the cost argument in favor of a different defense: that the Florida ARRA website under former Gov. Charlie Crist wasn’t an example of “open government” at all, but rather “hand-picked data prepackaged and designed to sell [the] stimulus program.”

In doing so, Burgess is wrongly blurring detailed information about specific stimulus programs with political spin.  It’s true that the old version of the website included some positive comments by Crist about the Recovery Act that the new Scott administration would of course remove, but the website’s data and project information is a different matter entirely.  Reasonable people may disagree about the merits of a project or program, but it’s impossible to have an informed debate when information is withdrawn.   As Perez noted, “Open and transparent government means that ALL public information is put on the table, regardless of political views or positions on the subject.”

Stimulus? What Stimulus? Florida, Ohio and Kansas Gut Their Recovery Act Websites

April 26, 2011

(This post originally appeared on the States for a Transparent and Accountable Recovery blog).

Despite the left-right consensus that government transparency is good, some new governors seem to disagree when it comes to the Recovery Act. In a little-noticed shift since the November elections, at least three states—Florida, Ohio and Kansas—have dramatically stripped down their official American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (ARRA) websites.

While none of the original websites were great (they all ranked lower than 30th in our January 2010 report card, “Show Us the Stimulus”), they were goldmines compared to the current websites these states are offering up.  Take a look at their current ARRA websites and compare them to those archived on the Way Back Machine.  The differences are not subtle.

I recently spoke with officials in the Governor’s offices of all three states to try to get an explanation for why their ARRA websites have been downgraded, and asked state-based groups in Florida and Ohio how these changes will affect their work.


Under former Gov. Charlie Crist, Florida’s Recovery Act website categorized “state and local [stimulus] projects” by various issue areas, including “health care,” “education,” and “infrastructure.” Each category included sub-category pages that featured a description of the program and specific funding details.   The Florida ARRA site also included a stimulus timeline, news updates, FAQs and, according to a March 2009 report by ProPublica, “a lot of downloadable documents.”

None of this information is available at Florida’s new Recovery Act website under Gov. Rick Scott.  The revised website includes only a list of “Certifications Required by the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009” and links to these letters, in which the Governor assures that the state will use Recovery Act funds in compliance with the law.

Chris Land, Recovery Act coordinator for Gov. Scott, said that “it’s pretty standard procedure for a new administration to design their own website and [arrange] their policy priorities in a way that’s important to them, and that’s why the website was changed.”  Land added that “[m]ost of that information is available on,” and that even though “some of it isn’t,” the state has no plans to return to the old website or add any additional information to the current one.

Commenting on the changes, Leda M. Perez, Vice President for Health Initiatives at the Collins Center for Public Policy, noted that the original website had served as “a valued resource for our own website evaluating the federal stimulus program in Florida.” Perez, whose organization is devoted to monitoring and analyzing ARRA’s investments in Florida and engaging the public around the activities of its government, added: “Certainly, a continued commitment to open and transparent government is essential to the democratic process.”

“People want to know how the stimulus money has been used in our state, especially how it has created jobs,” said Joseph Phelan, communications director at Florida New Majority, a group that tracks the impact of stimulus spending on Black and Latino communities in Florida. “Communities of color which were hardest hit by the recession are particularly concerned with this question. But in order to understand the impact of these funds, we need access to information about programs and spending.”


Ohio’s former stimulus website overseen by then-Gov. Ted Strickland featured a “project location and info map” that allowed constituents to “track stimulus funds in your community,” analysis of reporting data by quarter, news updates, and documents describing the various ARRA programs in Ohio, how much had been spent on them and how many jobs they had created.  The website also had a page titled, “The American Recovery and Reinvestment Act at a Glance,” which was updated quarterly and provided a series of facts and figures summarizing the impact of the Recovery Act in Ohio.

Other than links to the federal ARRA website ( and Ohio state agencies’ various ARRA websites, new Ohio Gov. John Kasich’s stimulus website only includes a list of certifications required by the Recovery Act.  The links to these certifications are not currently operational.

A constituent aide in Gov. Kasich’s office said she’d look into why the Ohio ARRA website has been stripped down, check with officials in the Governor’s office about “the information that the state can offer that’s not on the federal website,” and ask the Governor’s IT department to fix the broken certification links.  We also filed a media inquiry with the Governor’s office, but have yet to hear back.

“Ohio’s  comprehensive tracking of Recovery Act funding facilitated analysis of outcomes and impact,” said Wendy Patton of Policy Matters Ohio, which is finishing the last of seven reports on the impact of the federal stimulus in Ohio.   “The projects are still being completed, but under the Kasich administration, citizens’ oversight is eliminated.  Transparency in government serves an important role in strengthening democracy.  We are very disappointed that a valuable tool has been dismantled.”


Under former Gov. Mark Parkinson, the Kansas ARRA website featured pages for “education,” “energy,” “health and human services,” “housing & water,” “job training & relief for Kansans,” justice & public safety” and “transportation.” Each page included funding information as well as a description of certain programs and projects.  The website also included a description of the purpose of the stimulus legislation, a timeline of key “milestones” relating to the implementation of the Recovery Act in Kansas and a list of “featured news” items.

The new ARRA website of Gov. Sam Brownback has a few pages that were also on the earlier website: the education page remains, as does a “help for Kansas citizens” page about various state programs and a link to the page detailing stimulus projects in Kansas.  The new site also has a brief FAQ section about the Recovery Act, a list of certifications and a link to the legislation.  But the website no longer includes information about any of the other categories of stimulus funds or any information about specific programs or projects that aren’t related to education.

Gov. Brownback’s Press Secretary, Sherriene Jones-Sontag, said that the current website includes “what I’ve been told is required to be up there.”  Jones-Sontag said there aren’t any plans to change the website, but that “If there’s something that’s missing that should be on there, we’d be happy to make sure it gets put on there.”  However, she questioned “how many Kansans are actually accessing this page” and whether stimulus information is part of “the public discussion in Kansas.” According to Jones-Sontag, the Brownback administration is “not really promoting” the Recovery Act because it is trying to “get Kansas to live within its means.”

Teachable Moment: How Phase-Out of Stimulus Education Funds Impacts States

April 15, 2011

(This post originally appeared on the States for a Transparent and Accountable Recovery blog).

As budget battles continue in state capitals across the country, a recent Associated Press report provides a stark reminder that the budget crunch will likely grow worse for public education. With $100 billion in American Recovery and Reinvestment Act education funds set to run out by September, state lawmakers are, in the AP’s words, “staring over the edge of a massive fiscal cliff.”  The likely result: thousands of teacher layoffs and the elimination of critical school programs across the country.

The end of stimulus funds means that a state like Florida that has proposed cutting its state education budget by 5 percent would actually have to face a 10 percent reduction in education funds, while states that have proposed marginally increasing their education budgets would still see a sizeable reduction in overall education funding.

The looming crisis will play out worst in states that used the temporary boost of stimulus money as a justification for making deep cuts to the state education budget, rather than reduce spending in other areas.  When Recovery Act dollars dry up, the harsh impact of those cuts will suddenly become abundantly clear.

To help the states adjust to evaporating stimulus support, the federal government approved a $10 billion Education Jobs Fund last year.  That money will undoubtedly help, but in the end the states’ “fiscal cliff” is far too deep to be bridged by these additional funds coming from Washington.

With the writing on the wall, news reports across America have begun to identify the critical role the Recovery Act played in protecting education and the devastating impact the end of stimulus support will likely have on schools. Consider these recent stories:

  • In New Britain, Connecticut, “more than 100 teaching jobs could be in jeopardy” following the end of federal stimulus grants, and the school board has already had to “cut full-day kindergarten down to a half-day schedule.”
  • In Cobb County, Georgia, one woman “lost her job despite being her school’s teacher of the year,” and was only rehired thanks to stimulus funds.  The Recovery Act ensured that many of the 9,000 teachers in Georgia who were projected to be casualties of state budget cuts kept their jobs or were rehired, but now their futures are uncertain.
  • In Fort Worth, Texas, trustees voted this week to lay off 80 education employees, including more than 50 teachers, “because the two-year stimulus funding or other short-term money paying for those positions was ending.” Nearly 30 other school employees opted to resign rather than be laid off.
  • Indianapolis Public Schools used federal stimulus money “to keep 147 teachers employed until May,” something Superintendent Eugene White described as “a privilege” that “we don’t have … anymore.”  The cuts will mean larger class sizes, although IPS hopes to keep the increase “manageable.”
  • Kansas Governor Sam Brownback indicated in January that “he wouldn’t replace exhausted federal stimulus money next year,” and proposals from Brownback and the state legislature would reportedly cut state aid by between $226 and $250 per pupil.  Even if the most modest proposed cuts are adopted, state education funding would fall by at least 3.8 percent, on top of cuts necessitated by the phase-out of more than $500 million in education funds that the Recovery Act has provided for Kansas schools since 2009.
  • The Ohio Education Association “estimates more than 10,000 education jobs could be eliminated in fiscal year 2012 because of the governor’s two-year budget proposal and other funding changes,” primarily the loss of federal stimulus money.

As perhaps the most glaring example of how the phase-out of Recovery Act funds could negatively impact vital public services, we’ll continue to track this issue at Good Jobs First.

It’s also personal for us: one of our staffers has a child who will enter a kindergarten class in August that is 50 percent larger than her sister’s class was three years ago.  Maybe some of those who denied that the stimulus made a difference will finally get it when they drop their kids off at school this fall.