INDIANAPOLIS (AP) — Indiana never spent millions of dollars the federal
government provided to help make sure the children of migrant workers get a
good education, according to a report from the U.S. Department of Education.
The federal government awarded the state a total of about $12 million for
fiscal years 2010 and 2011, but the Indiana Department of Education didn’t
claim the grants, the report obtained this week by The Associated Press
Federal officials who reviewed Indiana’s program in March expressed concern
in the report that the state wasn’t spending enough to ensure that migrant
children receive adequate schooling in spite of their families’ frequent
A state’s ability to serve migrant children “is directly related to the
extent to which it can fully and effectively implement the requirements of
the program and expend MEP fund,” the report said. “Knowing this, ED (the
Education Department) is very concerned about IDOE’s failure to comply with
a number of MEP requirements and its inability to expend MEP funds in
accordance with the 27-month window of availability.”
The report said Indiana has downsized the staff for finding children for the
program so much that the state can no longer do the job. The state program
has a staff of four and employs five seasonal workers to recruit children
for the program. Federal officials recommended the program hire additional
State Department of Education spokeswoman Stephanie Sample said Wednesday
that Indiana received about $22.7 million for the years 2007 to 2009, and
returned about $3.9 million. The rest was spent on migrant programs, she
said. She said the reason the state didn’t spend all the grant money was
that the award is based on the number of migrant students in 2001, when the
state had many more.
“There is no flexibility in how the funds are used. Any funding the state
does not use to support education for migrant families goes back to the
federal treasury,” Sample said in an email.
School districts apply for the money and are reimbursed by the state with
grant funds, Sample said.
She said migrant families tend to stay in Indiana from April through
September or October, which “makes them hard to track, because they aren’t
in our state during the traditional school year.”
About 73 percent of the families migrate from Texas, Georgia and Florida,
and most of the remainder come from Mexico, the report said. Migrant
families often work in fields growing corn, tomatoes, apples, watermelon,
asparagus and cucumbers.
The report said the number of children eligible for Indiana’s program has
dwindled from 7,000 to 1,000 since 2007, a decline the state believes
resulted from employers hiring workers without families or local seasonal
workers, families settling, the lingering economic downturn and increased
enforcement of immigration laws.
The Sept. 28 report also said the state needs to improve the program’s plan
and other documentation and should take steps to make sure migrant children
were counted correctly. The report said state education officials rely too
heavily on schools’ counts, which include only children who are already
enrolled and miss those who don’t already go to school.
The U.S. Department of Education told the state to take corrective measures
within 75 days. Sample said that response is due by Dec. 28, and the state
expects to meet that deadline. Without corrective measures, the federal
department said it might place conditions on the state’s 2013 grant.
Another state spokeswoman, Katie Stephens, said Indiana’s education agency
is working with the federal government and other Midwestern states to
develop a more efficient program.
“While the state has not misused the funds, we are committed to ensuring
faster allocation of resources to our migrant families who need them,” she