Federal Education Funding:

Multiple Programs and Lack of Data Raise Efficiency and Effectiveness Concerns (Supplemental Information to Testimony)

HEHS-98-77R: Published: Jan 21, 1998. Publicly Released: Jan 21, 1998.

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Carlotta C. Joyner
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Pursuant to a congressional request, GAO provided supplemental information to its previous testimony on the challenges in obtaining important information about education programs and their outcomes, focusing on: (1) the definition and criteria GAO used to identify the number of federal education programs and departments that administer them; (2) the number of funded federal education programs providing direct instructional assistance and indirect instructional assistance to students in kindergarten through grade 12; (3) current data on how the Title I program has been working since its 1994 reauthorization; (4) the catch 22 federal policymakers face in wanting both accountability and more state and local flexibility; and (5) information on Performance Partnership Grants.

GAO noted that: (1) GAO did not develop its own definition of education or establish criteria to determine the number of departments and agencies that administer federal education programs in its November 1997 testimony; (2) instead, GAO relied on a Department of Education National Center for Education Statistics (NCES) analysis; (3) the NCES report does not include its definition of the term education; (4) GAO's 1995 count of federal education programs administered by the Department of Education was also based on Department of Education analyses; (5) GAO determined the number of education programs administered by other agencies by analyzing Catalog of Federal Domestic Assistance (CFDA) program entries and selecting the ones that CFDA described as having an education component; (6) using congressional definitions of direct and indirect instructional assistance, GAO identified 69 funded programs within the Department of Education for students in kindergarten through grade 12; (7) of these, 10 programs provided primarily direct instructional assistance, 55 provided indirect instructional assistance, and 4 provided both types of assistance; (8) the classifications in this section did not have the benefit of input from the Department of Education; (9) although GAO discussed its methodology and classifications with officials in the Department, the Department could not provide GAO with detailed comments in the required time periods; (10) GAO has not undertaken a comprehensive review of how Title I has been working since its 1994 reauthorization; (11) however, the Department of Education has a number of ongoing and planned studies that should provide data on the program's performance and student achievement; (12) balancing the need for federal accountability with that for state and local flexibility can present a challenge for federal policymakers; (13) for example, reducing reporting requirements and providing broad program objectives can result in less information about how well a program is achieving its objectives; and (14) performance partnerships, as envisioned by the administration, address this challenge by consolidating funding streams and assessing a program's success on the basis of performance measures developed in partnership by the federal, state, and local governments and local service providers.

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