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McKeon steps up spending oversight effort

Posted: March 2, 2009 8:04 p.m.
Updated: March 2, 2009 5:05 p.m.
 
WASHINGTON, D.C. - With American taxpayers on the hook to spend nearly $100 billion in "economic recovery" dollars on federal education programs -- on top of the roughly $60 billion already spent each year -- congressional Republicans are calling on the Obama Administration to cooperate with vigorous congressional oversight to protect both students and taxpayers.

The Education and Labor Committee's top Republican, Rep. Howard P. "Buck" McKeon (R-Santa Clarita), sent a letter to Education Secretary Arne Duncan last week requesting a series of briefings on the Administration's plans, as well as asking several key questions about how the Department plans to ensure funds are spent wisely.

"I appreciate the daunting task facing the Department of Education in carrying out the implementation of the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act and, while I recognize the Administration's desire to provide federal funding to states and school districts expeditiously to meet their budgetary challenges, I believe it is in the best interest of all taxpayers that these funds be spent effectively and efficiently to help students," McKeon wrote.

The full text of McKeon's letter to Secretary Duncan is available here.

McKeon and other Republicans on the Education and Labor Committee have raised serious questions about the inclusion of nearly $100 billion in education spending in the economic stimulus package. While much of the funding is directed toward programs that Republicans support, like Pell Grants and IDEA, the immediate economic benefit of this spending infusion is uncertain at best, Republicans have argued.

Moreover, channeling funds in this manner will either inflate state budgets, only to leave them facing huge shortages in future years, or it will be incorporated into the funding "baseline," forcing taxpayers to shoulder hundreds of billions in new, permanent spending obligations into the future.

"Taxpayers are being asked to finance more than $1 trillion in the name of economic recovery-funds that must be borrowed or paid for through tax increases," McKeon said. "The Education Department bears a tremendous responsibility in the dollars it spends and the reforms it demands. With so much at stake, Republicans are lining up to protect the interests of students and taxpayers."

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