Impact Aid:

Most School Construction Requests Are Unfunded and Outdated

HRD-90-90: Published: Jul 12, 1990. Publicly Released: Jul 12, 1990.

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Pursuant to a legislative requirement, GAO reviewed the federal school construction program for school districts affected by federal activities.

GAO found that: (1) in 1988, appropriation shortfalls had created a backlog of 178 eligible unfunded construction projects in school districts; (2) total estimated federal payments for those projects could be about $216 million; (3) information on the number of federally connected children and the estimated costs of many eligible projects that remain unfunded from year to year is often outdated; (4) in 1989, school districts that submitted 20 of the 58 projects that GAO studied had already completed the projects; (5) school district officials that submitted 8 of the 20 completed projects said they did not need federal construction assistance; (6) because most project requests are at least 12 years old, the project priority scores may be outdated and invalid and the school districts may subsequently complete their projects without federal assistance; (7) since the Department of Education fails to reevaluate project priority scores, it cannot provide Congress with an accurate ranking of federally impacted schools with current school construction needs; and (8) due to increased construction costs, project payments to schools receive a smaller share of total construction costs than they would if they were funded promptly.

Matters for Congressional Consideration

  1. Status: Closed - Not Implemented

    Comments: All sections of P.L. 81-815 that related to this recommendation were repealed in October 1994 when ESEA was reauthorized. Congress does not plan to appropriate funding for school construction in FY 1996.

    Matter: Congress should amend Public Law 81-815 to require that all federal payments to eligible school districts with federally connected enrollment increases be calculated on the basis of state average per pupil school construction costs in the year a project is funded.

  2. Status: Closed - Not Implemented

    Comments: All sections of P.L. 81-815 related to this recommendation were repealed in October 1994 when ESEA was reauthorized. Congress does not plan to appropriate funding for school construction in FY 1996.

    Matter: Federal funds are limited in relationship to the current backlog of eligible unfunded projects. For this reason, Congress may want to explore an alternative way to meet the school construction needs of federally impacted school districts. Such an approach could involve allocating on a pro-rata basis a portion of the federal share of project costs of districts above a certain needs threshold when program appropriations are insufficient to fully fund all eligible projects.

Recommendation for Executive Action

  1. Status: Closed - Implemented

    Comments: Having received Office of Management and Budget approval on November 21, 1991, Education is using a new form to require school districts to annually update the status of unfunded school construction projects.

    Recommendation: The Secretary of Education should require school districts to apply annually for school construction assistance to ensure that project requests reflect school districts' current enrollments of federally connected children and estimated school construction costs.

    Agency Affected: Department of Education

 

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