Race to the Top:
Characteristics of Grantees' Amended Programs and Education's Review Process
GAO-12-228R: Published: Dec 8, 2011. Publicly Released: Jan 9, 2012.
What GAO Found
In summary, we found that (1) According to Education officials, most amendments consisted of minor adjustments to grant budgets, activities, and timelines, and some amendments involved significant changes to the grant award. Grantees have cited a variety of reasons for these amendments, such as timeline delays and difficulty finding qualified staff. (2) Education established a review process in which Education officials consider amendment requests on a case-by-case basis. In addition, the department distinguishes significant amendment requests from minor requests based on how the amendment would change project timelines, budgets, performance measures, and the implementation of other related projects. Education reportedly applied greater scrutiny to requests that involved significant changes to grantees' planned activities, often by requiring that grantees provide additional information or seek consultation from issuearea experts within the department. Rather than reject amendment requests, Education officials explained that they generally asked grantees to resubmit requests with more information.
Why GAO Did This Study
The U.S. Department of Education (Education) established the Race to the Top (RTT) grant fund to encourage states to support school reform efforts. In 2010, Education awarded 12 RTT grants totaling nearly $4 billion, making RTT the largest competitive grant fund ever administered by Education. Individual grantee awards ranged from $75 million to approximately $700 million. The size of each grantee's award was based in part on its population, among other factors, and each grantee has 4 years to use grant funds. We recently reported on grantees' plans to implement a variety of school reform efforts and how Education has provided extensive support to states. Our report also discussed implementation challenges with RTT. Specifically, we reported that grantees have had difficulty finding and hiring qualified personnel to run their grant-funded activities, have encountered difficulty complying with state procedures for awarding contracts, and that Education took more time than anticipated to review grantees' RTT implementation plans. Moreover, the 12 RTT grantees requested amendments to their approved proposals. In an effort to ensure that states are held accountable for the terms of their awards, Congress asked us to provide information on the following questions: (1) What amendments have grantees requested to their RTT plans, and what reasons have grantees given for their amendment requests, particularly those that significantly changed projects, project timelines, or budgets? (2) What process has Education established to review and approve grantees' requests for amendments to their RTT plans?
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