Education Programs:

Information on the Ed-Flex Demonstration Project

HEHS-98-61R: Published: Dec 15, 1997. Publicly Released: Dec 15, 1997.

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Pursuant to a congressional request, GAO reviewed the Department of Education's Education Flexibility Partnership Demonstration Program (Ed-Flex), focusing on whether Ed-Flex is structured to address the issues associated with multiple federal programs.

GAO noted that: (1) under the Ed-Flex project, 12 states have been given limited authority to waive certain federal requirements affecting local school districts and schools; (2) Ed-Flex delegates federal authority to the states rather than expanding the scope of waiver authority generally available for education programs; (3) because the Department retains its own waiver authority outside the Ed-Flex states, school districts in other states may also request similar waivers; (4) instead of these waivers being approved at the state level, as in an Ed-Flex state, the waivers are approved at the federal level through the Department of Education; (5) for both Ed-Flex states and the federal Department of Education, the authority to grant waivers is restricted to specific requirements within specific programs; (6) waivers can be granted, however, for some requirements under Title I, such as those allocating funds within a school district; (7) through Ed-Flex, the Department hopes to: (a) simplify the waiver process; and (b) assist the twelve states in implementing education reforms that are designed to help all children reach challenging academic standards; (8) the Ed-Flex demonstration is generally not structured to address the issues that result from the large number of federal programs administered by different departments and agencies such as: (a) additional complexity in acquiring information about federal requirements; (b) increased difficulty in obtaining and analyzing information on program participation and educational outcomes; and (c) the potential for reduced flexibility in the use of federal funds; (9) because waivers cannot reduce the number of agencies or programs, they do not and cannot make fundamental changes in the underlying structure or design of federal assistance in education; (10) since Ed-Flex does not ensure coordination across agencies and programs, it is also not well-positioned to streamline the different administrative processes a school district must follow; (11) waivers do not simplify the challenge of obtaining the information necessary to characterize federal programs or evaluate their effect; and (12) although waivers of federal regulations, whether administered through Ed-Flex or through the federal Department of Education, cannot provide additional funding flexibility across all federal programs, they can increase a school district's flexibility within a covered federal program.

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