Education Oversight Challenges in the Stimulus Package (Rep. Buck McKeon)

Late last week, I sent a letter to Arne Duncan, the new U.S. Secretary of Education. I wrote to inquire about his agency’s plans to oversee the nearly $100 billion in education spending that was included in the “economic stimulus” package rushed through Congress last month by Democrats.

Few Americans are aware of the tremendous challenge that Secretary Duncan faces. His agency will see its budget roughly doubled in the coming year, flooding states and local schools with a temporary hike in resources and a raft of new mandates to go with them. A significant portion of the nearly $100 billion in education spending would go to a new "state stabilization fund" that tries to plug holes in state budgets by digging taxpayers deeper into debt at the federal level.

For the record, I am a strong supporter of education programs like Pell Grants, IDEA, and Title I that help disadvantaged students. And these programs do receive a boost under the stimulus. But I continue to have serious questions about whether this massive -- yet allegedly temporary -- funding increase belonged in what was supposed to be an economic recovery package.

Now that it has become law, our duty is to perform vigorous oversight. We need to protect students and taxpayers by ensuring that funds are spent effectively and efficiently. And that’s exactly what I asked Secretary Duncan about when I wrote to him last week. We need to know how the law’s requirements will be enforced; what safeguards will be in place for agencies and programs that have been deemed high-risk; whether waivers will be granted to states, and how such waiver decisions will be made; and much more. I’ll be watching closely to see how these funds are spent, and I’d recommend that all Americans do the same.