July 2, 2001

U.S. Department of Education Undergoes Reform

On Tuesday, June 26, House education leaders commended Secretary of Education Rod Paige for following through on his commitment to combat waste, fraud, and abuse in his department. Paige eliminated the use of third party drafts (department checks used to pay vendors and contractors) and restricted access to government purchase cards.

House Education and Workforce Committee Chairman John Boehner (R-OH), Select Education Subcommittee Chairman Pete Hoekstra (R-MI), and Select Education Subcommittee Vice Chairman Patrick Tiberi (R-OH) issued the following statement:

We commend Secretary Paige for acting swiftly and decisively to develop guidelines to combat waste, fraud, and abuse that occurred under the Clinton administration. If the Education Department is going to be an effective partner in closing the achievement gap, then it needs to effectively manage its resources. We believe that Secretary Paige's actions eliminating the use of third party drafts and restricting access to government purchase cards are vital steps in correcting financial management problems.

Secretary Paige has demonstrated exemplary leadership and management skills since his arrival in Washington. His vision for an effective Education Department is evident with the steps that he has taken to cease financial abuses and clean up the mess left by the Clinton administration.

During the final three years of the Clinton administration, the department failed three consecutive annual audits, and Department Inspector General Lorraine Lewis estimates that $450 million was lost to waste, fraud, and mismanagement.

HSLDA weighed in on the fraud hearings last year. Caleb Kershner, acting director of the National Center for Home Education said, "We have been greatly encouraged by the courageous leadership of Secretary Paige throughout this process of examination and reform."

In his examination of the department, Inspector General Lewis found that employees wrote checks totaling millions of dollars without supervision; $250 million in grant money was issued to the same recipients on more than 20 occasions; and employees enjoyed personal spending sprees using government credit cards.

Congressman Charlie Norwood of Georgia says it is time to shut this department down.

With the amount of money that is being misplaced over there, it would be proper to close the department down, put everybody on administrative leave, fill the department back up with auditors, and find out what's going on over there. That's what any good company would do. When you're talking about $450 million that have simply gone out the window, you need to take serious steps to correct that.

Since the creation of the Department of Education in the late 1970s, academic problems in public schools have continually worsened. Statistics released in April show that 63% of Black fourth graders in the United States can barely read, and 60% percent of all poor children in America read far below average.

Secretary Paige told Fox News that after spending $125 billion in Title I money, the federal government has achieved next to nothing in poor school districts.

President Bush's education bill, which recently passed the Senate 91-8, allows for an increase of $9.2 billion in funding for the Department of Education. Liberals on Capitol Hill had called for a $15 billion increase.