Wednesday, February 26, 2014

Millions of Dollars Misplaced in DC Scholarship Program

More oversight in the nation’s capital. The District of Columbia's Tuition Assistance Grant (TAG) program, intended to help students and families pay for college, providing up to $50,000 a year to students who attend eligible schools, has failed to account for millions of taxpayer dollars:

Congress has allocated between $17 million and $35 million a year for the program and at least $30 million annually since 2006. But according to the audit, TAG officials could not document or explain nearly $10 million in expenses since 2004.

A few more specifics from the revealing audit:

Most of the uncertainty stems from two charges to TAG for which no explanation could be found, according to the audit by F.S. Taylor and Associates, a District-based CPA firm. More than $5 million in TAG funds was used for unknown purposes in fiscal 2004, the audit says, and $4 million in TAG funds was used to pay for “administrative contracts” in fiscal 2008, exceeding the program’s cap on allowable administrative costs.

So, in other words, what could have been a worthy initiative has turned into a Grade A scandal. Since TAG began in 2000, more than $317 million has gone to help more than 20,000 students pay for college. The aid is specifically saved for families who have incomes under $1 million a year and students who attend public schools outside the city, private schools in the D.C. region and historically black colleges. But, the endless amount of embarrassing revelations are leaving many to wonder if the program deserves its federal funding:

Agency staff decide whether students receiving TAG funds are D.C. residents and eligible for the money, but there is no routine quality-control mechanism to review those decisions, auditors found. And there is no regular reconciliation between the software the OSSE uses to track TAG money and the citywide finance system that records expenditures, leading to large discrepancies and confusion about how much money is available for students.

The next question is: Is there anything being done about the oversight? Don’t worry, Eleanor Holmes Norton is on the case.The D.C. delegate, who has championed TAG in Congress, said she will ask the new D.C. chief financial officer to lead a much-needed review of the program:

“The draft report raises concerns about the sufficiency of internal controls at the D.C. TAG program,” Norton said Friday. “While the report is troubling, the auditors may have discovered unexpected carry-over funds, which, if accurate, should allow more D.C. students to access D.C. TAG.”

Okay, but Norton’s reassurances likely won’t put taxpayers at ease anytime soon. What do you think? Should this plan be scrapped?


Allegheny College Calls Pro-Life Students "Dangerous"

Allegheny College, a small liberal arts school in Pennsylvania, had an odd reaction to pro-life students who distributed flyers in academic buildings: they issued a campus alert, called the students "dangerous," and treated it like a major security breach.

From the Daily Caller:

The incident occurred on Feb. 7. Apparently, someone slipped pro-life flyers under the doors of professors’ offices in the Arter, Quigley, Steffee and Arnold buildings. Joseph DiChristina, the dean of students at Allegheny, decided to treat this like a security breach, and wrote in an email to campus that security personnel were investigating it.

“Promoting a particular point of view through this type of anonymous method is seen as an act that is antithetical to the kind of environment where open dialogue and conversation can take place,” he wrote in the email. “We ask that individuals engage in respectful behavior that promotes a free exchange of ideas. It is important that we value all people and that we not promote behaviors that cause harm and that can be seen as intimidating."

Allegheny officials had not released what was actually on the flyer, just that it contained pro-life content.

When I was in college, I had flyers advertising everything from community events to cheerleading tryouts slipped anonymously under my door. If the content of the flyer isn't "threatening," then the action cannot possibly be construed as such. Something is majorly fishy about this story and Allegheny College's reaction.


Solutions to Black Education

Walter E. Williams

A fortnight ago, my column focused on how Philadelphia's schoolteachers have joined public-school teachers in cities such as Atlanta, Detroit, Los Angeles, Columbus, New York and Washington in changing student scores on academic achievement tests. Teachers have held grade fixing parties, sometimes wearing rubber gloves to hide fingerprints. In some cases, poorly performing students were excused from taking exams to prevent them from dragging down averages. As a result of investigations, a number of schoolteachers and administrators have been suspended, fired or indicted by states attorneys general.

Most of these cheating scandals have occurred in predominantly black schools across the nation. At one level, it's easy to understand -- but by no means condone -- the motivation teachers have to cheat. Teachers have families to raise, mortgages, car payments and other financial obligations. Their pay, retention and promotions depend on how well their students perform on standardized tests.

Very often, teachers must deal with an impossible classroom atmosphere in which many, if not most, of the students are disorderly, disobedient and alien and hostile to the education process. Many students pose a significant safety threat. The latest statistics available, published by the Department of Education's National Center for Education Statistics, in a report titled "Indicators of School Crime and Safety: 2012," tell us that nationwide between 2007 and 2008, about 145,100 public-school teachers were physically attacked by students, and another 276,700 were threatened with injury.

Should any of this criminal behavior be tolerated? Should unruly students be able to halt the education process? And, a question particularly for black people: Are we in such good educational shape that we can afford to allow some students to make education impossible? A report supported in part by the Congressional Black Caucus Foundation, titled "Reducing Suspension among Academically Disengaged Black Males" (, suggests a tolerance for disruptive students.

There are some members of the Congressional Black Caucus, the NAACP and the National Urban League who attended school during the years I attended (1942-54). During those days, no youngster would have even cursed a teacher, much less assaulted one. One has to wonder why black leaders accept behavior that never would have been tolerated by their parents and teachers. Back then, to use foul language or assault a teacher or any other adult would have resulted in some form of corporal punishment in school or at home or both. Today such discipline would have a teacher or parent jailed. That, in turn, means there is little or no meaningful sanction against unruly or criminal behavior.

No one argues that yesteryear's students were angels. In Philadelphia, where I grew up, students who posed severe disciplinary problems were removed. Daniel Boone School was for unruly boys, and Carmen was for girls. Some people might respond: But what are we going to do with the students kicked out? Whether or not there are resources to help them is not the issue. The critical issue is whether they should be permitted to make education impossible for students who are capable of learning. It's a policy question similar to: What do you do when you have both drunken drivers and sober drivers on the road? The first order of business is to get the drunken drivers off the road. Whether there are resources available to help the drunks is, at best, a secondary issue.

There is little that the political and education establishment will do about the grossly fraudulent education received by many black youngsters, and more money is not the answer. For example, according to findings by Cato Institute's Andrew J. Coulson, Washington, D.C., spends $29,409 per pupil ( In terms of academic achievement, its students are nearly the nation's worst. The average tuition for a K-12 Catholic school is $9,000, and for a nonsectarian private K-12 school, it is $16,000. A voucher system would empower black parents to remove their children from high-cost and low-quality public schools and enroll them in lower-cost and higher-quality nonpublic schools.


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