Safe and Drug-Free Schools:

Balancing Accountability With State and Local Flexibility

HEHS-98-3: Published: Oct 10, 1997. Publicly Released: Oct 10, 1997.

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Pursuant to a congressional request, GAO reviewed: (1) the accountability measures the Safe and Drug-Free Schools and Communities Act requires at the federal, state, and local levels; (2) the activities that the Department of Education uses for overseeing state and local programs; (3) how state education agencies (SEA) ensure local programs' compliance with the act; and (4) how Safe and Drug-Free Schools funding is specifically used at the state and local levels.

GAO noted that: (1) the Safe and Drug-Free Schools program is one of several substance abuse- and violence-prevention programs funded by the federal government; (2) the act that authorizes the program requires four major types of actions to ensure accountability on the federal, state, and local levels: (a) an application process requiring approval of state and local program plans; (b) monitoring activities by state agencies; (c) periodic reports and evaluations; and (d) the use of local or substate regional advisory councils; (3) Education oversees state programs directly and local programs indirectly through required state actions; (4) working along with states, Education reviews, helps states to revise, and approves state plans; (5) Education has issued no program-specific regulations on the act; (6) Education does require states to conform to general and administrative regulations and advises states on program matters, such as allowable expenditures, through nonbinding guidance; (7) the Department may get involved in resolving allegations of impropriety in the use of funds; (8) no overall evaluations of the Safe and Drug-Free Schools program have been completed; (9) Education conducts evaluation activities designed to provide both descriptive and evaluative information about the programs; (10) Education's evaluative activities focus on broader aspects of program implementation; (11) Education is indirectly gathering information about the effectiveness of specific state and local programs through reports states must submit to Education every 3 years; (12) the lack of uniformity in what states report may create a problem for federal oversight; (13) nearly all states use the approved local plans to ensure local programs' compliance with the act's requirements; (14) states use local compliance with the approved plans as a way of ensuring that funds are spent on activities permitted under the act; (15) most states use both on-site visits and local self-reports to oversee local program activities; (16) local education agencies (LEAs) are also required to evaluate the effectiveness of their programs; (17) SEAs and LEAs use Safe and Drug-Free Schools funds for a variety of activities; (18) states mostly use their 5-percent set-aside for activities such as training and technical assistance; (19) ninety-one percent of LEAs provide drug-prevention instruction; and (20) staff training is the next most offered activity.

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