Statehouse Headliners: Vermont Agency of Education No. 1 in grants without performance measurement

By Guy Page

More than 1,000 Vermont Agency of Education funding grants contain no performance measurements, a Nov. 30 state report to the Government Accountability Committee concludes.

Of the 1556 grants received by the Agency of Education, 1114 grants — 68.9 percent of the total number — lack performance measurements, the Nov. 30 spreadsheet report by Susan Zeller said. Ms. Zeller is Chief Performance Officer of the Vermont Agency of Administration.

Guy Page is affiliated with the Vermont Energy Partnership, the Vermont Alliance for Ethical Healthcare, and Physicians, Families & Friends for a Better Vermont.

The Agency of Education took “first place” in the grant performance non-measurement category.  Second place went to the Vermont Department of Libraries, with 199; and third, the Dept. of Environmental Conservation, with 110. Also, none of the 47 Buildings & Grounds capital projects grants have performance measurements; and of 45 Fish & Wildlife Dept. grants, 43 have no performance measurements. Throughout state government, a total of 1617 – roughly a third of the total number – grants are not measured for performance.

No reasons or remedies for the low measurement numbers are mentioned in the report, but presumably the Agency of Administration and the legislative committees with oversight over these agencies and departments may pursue explanations and solutions during the 2019 Legislature. At its Wednesday, Dec. 19 meeting, the committee is scheduled to discuss educating the General Assembly on the Results-Based Accountability system of administration and oversight.

The Government Accountability Committee is a joint Senate/House committee that, among other tasks, issues an annual report on the performance and outcomes of state government. Its members include: Sen. Brian Collamore, Co-Chair. Rep. Maida Townsend, Co-Chair.  Sen. Jeanette K. White.  Sen. Dick McCormack. Sen. Carolyn Whitney Branagan. Rep. Scott Beck. Rep. Jessica Brumsted Rep. Robin Scheu.

On Oct. 30, the committee learned that fewer state grants and contracts contained performance requirements in 2018 than in 2017 – a troubling development that apparently led to the “deeper dive” November 30 report. The information shared Oct. 30 was part of a “snapshot” of the annual “outcomes report” required by Act 186, passed in 2014. The report offers a brief, fascinating details on whether life is getting better or worse for Vermonters in several major areas of life: income, employment, environment, health, public safety, etc.

Statehouse Headliners is intended primarily to educate, not advocate. It is e-mailed to an ever-growing list of interested Vermonters, public officials and media. Guy Page is affiliated with the Vermont Energy Partnership; the Vermont Alliance for Ethical Healthcare; and Physicians, Families and Friends for a Better Vermont.

Image courtesy of Bruce Parker/TNR

5 thoughts on “Statehouse Headliners: Vermont Agency of Education No. 1 in grants without performance measurement

  1. There should be performance measurements for all government agencies along with teacher performance. It roots out the bad ensures all dollars were actually earned.

  2. What happened to the money people spent (which is a agreeable tax) on the Lottery? That was suppose to help fund education, at least that’s how the politicians promoted the state Lotteries. I think it got flushed down the toilet called Montpelier and vanished into no-mans land. Trust a politician.

    • Follow the money:

      The non-profit sector of the Vermont economy is huge. Federal and State grants fund much of it. Wealthy philanthropists do too….and then receive personal tax deductions. If anyone cares to follow the money by reviewing the IRS non-profit 990 tax forms non-profit organizations are required to publicly publish, they will find that these grants are first awarded to ‘parent’ organizations, like the Vermont Agency of Education, then passed down through a subsidiary grant award process to other non-profits, that often award another layer of grants to other non-profit organizations, and so on. Performance evaluations are vague mission statements at best. Non-competitive contract awards and conflicts of interest appear to be standard fair.

      In the current movement advocating increased child care funding, the layers of non-profit participation are three, sometimes four, non-profit organizations deep. As the money passes through each organization, each one spends a significant amount of its grant money on operational costs – salaries, lobbying, advertising, investment management and so forth. By the time the money reaches the intended recipients, there’s very little left.

  3. The tip of the iceberg? The absence of specified performance criteria is just one way the Agency of Education (AOE) greases the wheel of cronyism. And one should not be surprised to find that other State agencies operate the same way.

    This isn’t the first time the Agency of Education’s allocation of grant money has been called into question. Consider the Report of the Vermont State Auditor Douglas R. Hoffer Vermont State Auditor Rpt. No. 15-10 December 17, 2015 AGENCY OF EDUCATION Use of Non-Competitive and Non-Standard Contracts Contrary to State and Agency Requirements.

    “AOE had awarded 26 contracts funded by RTT-ELC [grants] by April 30, 2015. Of the eleven that were over $15,000 (the Bulletin 3.5 threshold), ten did not result from competitive procurement but were approved by the Agency of Administration (AOA) as sole source contracts.”

    “…one of the AOE employees responsible for these procurement decisions appeared to have a conflict of interest as she also worked for one of the vendors she helped to select to provide services as a sole source contractor.”

    • More of the iceberg exposed:

      RTT-ELC grants support early learning and development programs throughout the state. Curiously, there is an ongoing public relations campaign for additional child care capacity for kids ages 0 to 5 recommending raising the state’s child-care subsidies.

      Report: Vermont has lost child care capacity (VT Digger Dec 9, 2018)

      At the same time, Vermont’s Education secretary, Dan French, says pre-K law has created ‘chaos’ in child care sector. “(Act) 166 [providing access to at least 10 hours of publicly-funded pre-kindergarten] is inadequate legislation…” (VT Digger Dec 23, 2018)

      “Whatever French proposes, child care will likely be a top issue at the Statehouse come January. Gov. Phil Scott has made early education a key priority, and said he wants to put new revenues from sales taxes on online purchases toward child care.”

      With a progressive super-majority in the State legislature, it doesn’t take a rocket scientist to predict more of the same – more spending, less accountability and continued conflicts of interest.

Comments are closed.