In a great post on Education Week’s website, author Michele McNeil highlights the frustration expressed by advocacy organizations regarding a gap in the government’s “transparency” with regards to the Department of Education’s part of the stimulus. It seems the Department of Education is not releasing state applications for stabilization funds as they are submitted, but instead release them only after they have been approved. This provides no room for public comment or comparison between what was originally submitted and ultimately approved. You won’t even see the original application after the approved version is posted.
As we have blogged earlier, 18.2% of these funds may be allocated at the governor’s discretion. This includes allotments for non-educational areas such as public safety. As this affects companies and organizations outside of the education space, it would certainly be useful to see details of state’s desired plans prior to these going through the approval process.
First, setting the call for greater openness aside, the stabilization money is beginning to flow to states. I was told by Sandra Abrevaya, public information contact at the ED, once a state’s application has been approved, the funds are available for them to draw upon. So far, it appears roughly 25 states have received approval. This is good news as disbursements in other areas of the stimulus appear to be moving more slowly.
Second, expect more discussions and protests from advocacy groups and others regarding the amount of information released. The Obama administration has been successful in creating a significant buzz surrounding the topic. In doing so, they’ve set the bar very high. The definition of “transparency” will be at the heart of the question as different groups offer divergent perspectives on just how much detail is needed to fulfill this promise.
Third, vendors should utilize what is available. Whatever your view of “transparency,” information helpful in making business decisions does exist. Commit the resources to developing information, connections, and most importantly, creating real value for government buyers.