American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (ARRA)
Aligned to goals:
- 1.2: Make more data and information available to the public.
- 1.4: Increase the transparency of the grant application and award process.
- 1.5: Maintain up-to-date information on the Department's website about Department offices and key programs.
- 2.2: Provide regularly updated project maps, dated milestones, and financial data regarding open government and other key initiatives.
The American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009 (ARRA) requires an unprecedented level of transparency into government spending. In particular it mandates:
- The creation of "a web site on the Internet to be named Recovery.gov, to foster greater accountability and transparency in the use of funds made available in this Act."
- Recovery.gov is operated by the Recovery Accountability and Transparency Board, which was also created by the Recovery Act. http://www.recovery.gov
- The creation of an agency-specific Recovery Web page located within the agency site and identified on the home page. http://www.ed.gov/policy/gen/leg/recovery/
- Weekly reporting by agencies on obligations, outlays, and activities
- Quarterly reporting by recipients on awards, spending, jobs impact, and project status.
The Department of Education has been an active participant in the development and ongoing evolution of these sites and tools since their inception. As a result of these initiatives, education stakeholders can now track on a weekly basis the speed with which the Department is awarding its ARRA funding and the extent to which States are putting this money to work. This provides a new level of accountability for federal and State education spending. At the local level, parents and community members can enter the zip code of their local school district, identify exactly how much ARRA funding has been awarded and spent to date, and scrutinize vendor payments over $25,000, holding local officials accountable for their decisions.
As the Department gains experience with the new level of transparency provided via Recovery.gov, the Department is continuing to address the issue of presenting its data in a user-friendly format to ensure its use by the widest possible variety of stakeholders. In doing so, the Department has gone beyond the requirements of Recovery.gov in the following areas:
Weekly ARRA spending to date is posted on ED.gov/recovery with detailed State and program-level detail. This provides the appropriate level of aggregation to help the public understand the flow of funds in their State to different programs, and for program advocates to understand State-level differences in the flow of funds for the program in question.
Section 1512 award, spending, and jobs reporting data are posted on ED.gov/recovery at the State and program levels. This allows the public to assess their State's progress in using ARRA funds to save or create jobs, and allows policymakers to evaluate the impact of different ED ARRA programs relative to job creation.
This enhanced level of transparency for ARRA programs, and the attention to both the availability and accessibility of the information presented, have set a new standard of transparency for the Department. The next step for the Department is to apply these principles to all programs, not just to Recovery Act programs. In particular, more detailed, sub-award reporting will be critical to achieving greater transparency into education funding at the local level.