Sunday’s LA Daily News picks up on the Board of Education’s new requirement to approve grant applications ahead of time, reporting that a majority of the Board feared that Superintendent John Deasy and his staff had “hijacked” the grant application process but that their votes had set off a string of events that “could stem the flow of tens of millions of dollars to cash-strapped Los Angeles Unified.”
The long-term impact of the new requirement is hard to tell so soon after the decision, but a look around the country shows that there are many different ways school boards ensure that they have appropriate oversight over outside funding — some of which may be included in the regulations that Superintendent Deasy is developing.
The LADN article reports that Board member Richard Vladovic, who sponsored the resolution, says it was prompted in part by last October’s Teacher Incentive Fund grant application — not the more recent Race to the Top grant application — and that are roughly 20 grant applications a year that will have to go through the new approval process, according to LAUSD.
The story also notes that Vladovic and other Board members are still discussing how much oversight they deem reasonable, and that some adjustments may be made.
So what do other districts do?
According to the LADN story, Long Beach requires prior approval for anything over $5,000, while Burbank notifies its Board for anything over $100,000.
Elsewhere around the country, policies vary widely from those that require prior approval for all grant applications to those that only require approval when matching funds are required or when post-grant sustainability is in question, according to email responses from districts gathered by the Association of School Business Officials International. Some districts don’t require Board approval at all, or rely on Board approval for grants only once they have been awarded.
Approval of funding that’s coming in makes sense, according to Gene Maeroff, who wrote a 2010 book on school boards titled School Boards in America: A flawed exercise in democracy. School boards generally “have to formally accept money that comes to them from non-tax sources, as donations by PTAs to schools,” Maeroff told LA School Report via email.
Several other big-city school districts including Washington DC, New York City, and Chicago operate under direct control of the Mayor’s office, making disagreements between appointed Board members and school superintendents uncommon.