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Luetkemeyer Column- Local Education Centers Triumph in Battle Over Costly Government Regulations


Location: Washington, DC

Education, in its broadest sense, is the fundamental building block for human development that spreads from one generation to the next. Our teachers, who dedicate their time and talent in the classroom are best equipped, along with state and local officials, to decide the best interests of students on a daily basis. Simply put, education is best if it is left out of the hands of the federal government.

For the past several months I have worked with the U.S. Department of Education on an important issue to many in the 9th District. Last summer the U.S. Department of Education notified Missouri career centers that they would be required to convert their accounting practices from a cash basis to an accrual basis or else not be eligible for Title IV financial aid. This aid is the only avenue many folks have to enroll in adult programs at Missouri career centers. Without it, enrollment in these adult programs would be so low that the careers centers would be forced to stop offering them.

The U.S. Department of Education, for about 15 years, has allowed Missouri career centers to operate under its current reporting system, which is cash accounting. Missouri is unique from many states in that many of its career centers are part of local school districts, and Missouri allows local school districts to use cash accounting. The Government Accountability Office, which is a federal audit agency, has also stated that cash accounting is an acceptable form of accounting. If it is good enough for local school districts, the state of Missouri, and the federal watchdog agency, then it should be good enough for career centers.

There are at least 32 career centers in Missouri that participate in the Title IV programs and are affiliated with local school districts. This would mean that local school districts would be forced to convert their entire accounting systems or perform separate audits using accrual accounting just for adult programs at affiliated career centers, costing each school district around $10,000 annually. Most school districts cannot afford this, and would instead just shutter the adult career center programs.

Fortunately, after several months of working on this issue, urging U.S. Education Secretary Arne Duncan to continue using cash accounting, this issue has been resolved -- for now. Recently, up to 27 Missouri school districts have received notice from the U.S. Department of Education that they can continue using cash accounting practices without becoming ineligible for Title IV federal financial aid. This is excellent news for school districts across the state that were planning on dropping their adult programs due to the cost of this unnecessary and burdensome federal regulation. Due to career centers throughout Missouri, every year, the state is able to turn out an average of 500 Licensed Practical Nurses that are ready to hit the job market and embark on their careers.

While this issue has been addressed, I will make sure to follow-up with the U.S. Department of Education and U.S. Education Secretary Duncan to ensure that this issue does not arise again in the future. Our country is going through a time of historic unemployment rates and the federal government should not be using regulations to make it more difficult for Missourians to receive the necessary job training and career resources to better their lives. It is past time for the current administration to take a look and realize that the more the federal government is involved in day-to-day lives, the worse things are.

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