Keeping an Eye on Earmarks:
The department wouldn't respond to inquiries from the Chronicle, citing the ongoing investigation, but open records requests have produced documents that show a pattern of delays and obfuscation that went unchallenged by federal officials.
The University of Louisville's former dean of education, Robert D. Felner, faces a criminal trial on charges that he and an associate diverted most of a $694,000 earmarked federal grant into their own bank accounts. Louisville officials have announced an administrative overhaul that will, they say, help prevent any future misbehavior with grants.
But what about the U.S. Department of Education, which was responsible for overseeing the grant on taxpayers' behalf? Should it, too, be doing some soul-searching in the aftermath of Mr. Felner's indictment?
Felner gained "no cost extensions" on his final report in the summer of 2006 and again in 2007 from program officer Ron Anson.
In both cases, Mr. Felner and his colleagues prepared new budgets and drafted extraordinarily vague statements about the status of the project. The 2007 declaration, which The Chronicle obtained from Louisville through an open-records request, said that "our final work and products will continue it's focus [sic] on two primary areas." One of those areas was "conducting ongoing research and evaluation projects — particularly those involving data, accountability, and assessment." But nowhere did Mr. Felner name any schools or districts where those alleged projects were taking place.
As has now been acknowledged by numerous sources at KDE and JCPS as well as the Education Cabinet no such surveys were being conducted. Had Anson asked for some tangible verification of how many surveys had been completed to date, and in which districts, perhaps the truth might have been revealed. But Anson told Felner not to bother sending the 2007 declaration wherein Felner indicated that the "scope of work" had changed significantly.
Significant change; yet an incurious lack of federal review.
The Education Department's own inspector general expressed concern that overworked officers had to monitor more than 100 such projects and the department's oversight of earmarked grants was lacking as a result.