Gov.-elect Arnold Schwarzenegger needs all the help he can get in rooting out waste in state government. An audit of state "categorical" education programs released Nov. 6 by the Bureau of State Audits found significant areas of waste and lack of oversight.
These 113 separate "categorical programs" amounted to $17 billion of the state's $41 billion education budget in fiscal year 2001-02, the year studied. The programs are targeted for specific purposes, such as buying textbooks and dispersing federal funds for such things as desegregation.
Some of the audit's finding:
"[The California Department of Education] did not take sufficient steps to implement a pilot project aimed at reforming categorical programs."
"CDE's allocation of categorical program funding needs improvement."
"CDE has yet to implement fully the Bureau of State Audits' ... recommendations aimed at strengthening its oversight methods."
"For a few categorical programs, such as the Lottery Education Fund program, CDE does nothing to review recipient's compliance with applicable requirements."
The audit identified about $1.8 billion in waste that could be cut, Matt Cox, a policy fellow for education studies at the Pacific Research Institute, told us. But it "focused too much on the process, which indeed is flawed," he said. "Any future audit should emphasize accountability" to see if the programs taxpayers are funding actually work.
For example, is a textbook program providing the right books to the right kids?
Mr. Cox said the audit of the categorical funding will be helpful for the complete audit of state government that's being conducted by Donna Arduin, who will be Gov.-elect Schwarzenegger's director of finance. "The audit will buttress Arnold's argument for more local control" of schools, in which "categorical" funds presumably would be reduced, with the money saved being given to local school districts, Mr. Cox said.
It is shocking that the state has so little oversight over where $17 billion in tax money goes. Reforms should include complete accountability, cutting programs and sending the money to local districts and combining programs (some of which are mandated by federal law) that cannot be eliminated.