Department of Education

Executive Summary

In developing this report, the National Performance Review (NPR) is guided, first and foremost, by the administration's policy toward education. This policy stems from a profound dissatisfaction with a system that produces SAT scores below the levels of 30 years ago, produces students who lag well behind the rest of the industrialized world, and allows millions of Americans to leave school unable to read the first paragraph of our own Constitution.

Created in 1979, primarily from parts of what had been the Department of Health, Education and Welfare, the Department of Education (ED) has 230 programs and about 5,000 employees. It is responsible for only about one dollar in 15 of the $445 billion invested each year in American education.

The department administers a fiscal 1993 budget of $31.1 billion, distributed largely as grants-in-aid to state and local education agencies for programs designed to educate disadvantaged children and help the disabled or to students to help finance their higher education.

The department has suffered from mistrust and management neglect, almost from its beginning. To overcome this legacy and to lead the way in national education reform, ED must refashion and revitalize its programs, management, and systems.

To this end, the administration already has presented five major legislative proposals: Goals 2000: Educate America Act, the Safe Schools Act, the School-to-Work Opportunities Act, the Student Loan Reform Act, and the National Service Trust Act. Student Loan Reform and National Service Trust have already been enacted into law. The department also has undertaken notable management initiatives and cooperative efforts with other cabinet departments.

The Goals 2000: Educate America Act is intended to promote school reform by helping communities and states to establish voluntary internationally competitive standards. It will encourage communities and states to tie curriculum and teacher training to standards and devise and implement related assessment and accountability systems. It will encourage partnerships among the federal government, states, parents, business, labor, schools, communities, and students.

Reinvention strategies are a central theme of the management reforms sought by this administration. A new ED management structure ensures continued senior-level attention to reform and reinvention: (1) the Executive Management Committee, chaired by the Deputy Secretary and consisting of a number of the department's senior political leaders, focuses on strategic planning and general management issues; and (2) the Reinvention Coordinating Council initiates and oversees the department's improvement efforts.

This report supports the administration's proposals to redesign Chapter 1 of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act, which is the major federal program to support compensatory education for disadvantaged students. Expert evaluation concludes that the annual $6.5-billion investment is not producing the expected results. NPR presents recommendations to reinvent the program, focusing its funding and removing its elaborate structure and replacing it with simplified requirements.

NPR recommends reducing the number of programs the department administers. ED runs 230 education programs, many of which overlap or have achieved the purpose for which they were created--or are better addressed by non-federal resources. NPR specifically recommends:

--- eliminating over 40 of them;

--- consolidating various formula grants; and

--- consolidating the Drug Free Schools and Communities Act and the pending Safe Schools programs.

NPR also recommends repealing the grantback provisions of the General Education Provisions Act, as proposed by the administration. This provision allows an organization to pay ED a penalty when it has failed to comply with some regulation and then ask the department to return up to 75 percent of the money on the grounds that potential beneficiaries of the grant should not be penalized.

Other recommendations in this report will result in greater efficiencies, including streamlining and improving ED's grants processing, simplifying and strengthening institutional eligibility and certification for participation in federal student aid programs, and providing incentives for the department to increase debt collection. This report also recommends initiatives that will improve ED's effectiveness and customer service by creating a single point of contact for programs and grant information; improving ED's employee development opportunities; building a professional, mission-driven structure for research; and developing a strategy for technical assistance and information dissemination.

While NPR does show how the Department of Education can spend $173.2 million less over the next five years, the recommendations also indicate how, by clarifying and simplifying its work, the department can begin to do the public's business in the effective and efficient way the nation's future requires.

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