U.S. Rep. Blaine Luetkemeyer (MO-9) announced Friday he is taking a lead role among members of the Missouri congressional delegation in opposing a troubling U.S. Department of Education regulation that would require Missouri career and technical schools (career centers) to adopt expensive financial reporting requirements at a time when these schools are facing major financial challenges.
"This regulation is another example of Washington trying to impose a one-size-fits-all approach. This administration is not taking into account the vast differences in school districts throughout the country and even of states and their financial reporting requirements for their school districts," Luetkemeyer said. "I believe we need to be providing states and school districts more flexibility in the use of federal funds, not severely limiting career centers' ability to apply federal funds by mandating that they take on a whole new accounting system."
Since 1997, federal regulations stipulate that postsecondary education institutions applying for Title IV funds must submit annual financial statements to the Department of Education prepared on an accrual basis, a method of accounting. For years, the Department of Education has granted multiple extensions to Missouri career centers to operate under its current reporting system -- cash accounting -- because Missouri allows school districts to adopt any comprehensive basis of accounting. Missouri is unique from many states in that many of its career centers are part of local school districts.
In a letter signed by every member of the Missouri delegation to Education Secretary Arne Duncan, Luetkemeyer requested that the Education Department provide a waiver from requiring Missouri's career centers to comply with the regulation when applying for Title IV funds. Fewer than 40 schools in the state, which are larger in nature, prepare their financial statements using the accrual basis method of accounting, and 90 percent of all schools in Missouri use the cash basis of accounting.
"At a time of historic unemployment, career centers are providing valuable technical training to produce qualified candidates for in-demand sectors of the economy. For most schools, many of which are rural, changing an entire school district's accounting system for one affiliated career center necessitates an expense that many school districts simply cannot afford," Luetkemeyer said in the letter. "We believe it is within the Department's jurisdiction to modify the regulation, because this requirement is the Department's interpretation, as opposed to a requirement in the underlying legislation [Higher Education Act]."