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Get to Know Alexa Posny, Head of OSERS, Part 4

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We wanted readers to get a chance to know Alexa Posny, who has held the role of assistant secretary for special education and rehabilitative services since the Senate confirmed her in October.

So Education Week submitted questions to Posny, the former Kansas education commissioner, and she sent back written responses, which we have printed in this column in four installments.

President Obama nominated Posny to the key federal post in July. The job has meant a return to Washington for Posny, who was director of the Education Department's office of special education in 2006-07. She had been the Kansas commissioner of education since June 2007.

For part one of the interview click here. For part two of the interview click here. For part three of the interview, click here.

Q. Do you think the federal stimulus money is being used properly by school districts and are you satisfied rules for using stimulus money are being followed?

A. Luckily, stimulus money is largely intended to be spent consistent with the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act's general funds, so spending requirements aren't a surprise to states. Still, we're doing everything to get out the word about how the stimulus funds should be spent.

We know that many local education agencies likely need to use a bulk of their American Recovery and Reinvestment Act funds to support teacher salaries or other short-term needs. We're also offering ideas and guidance to states about how to invest the money in capacity-building activities in LEAs and schools to improve results for students with and without disabilities in a manner that is consistent with regulatory requirements and Office of Management and Budget guidance and in coordination with other funding sources including their regular IDEA Part B allocation.

Finally, we are also doing our part to ensure the stimulus money is being used in accordance with laws and regulations. For example, on the global, governmentwide front, we are participating in several studies being conducted by the Government Accountability Office (GAO).

Our Inspector General is in a number of states conducting investigations looking at use of funds in these audits.

All funds were distributed with specific grant terms and conditions to which the recipient has to adhere. (Funds must be used consistently with IDEA, other guidance--OMB circulars for example, and with the specific terms set forth in ARRA). Generally, all IDEA ARRA funds are subject to state single audit requirements (the department issued a state single audit supplement to cover ARRA funds).

The Office of Special Education and Rehabilitative Services has provided technical assistance regarding use of funds. The Office of Special Education Programs is in the process of completing ARRA desk audits for each recipient. Those desk audits cover such topics as obligation, liquidation and use of funds, grant terms and conditions, and maintenance of effort.

We will continue to add monitoring methods and tools as we move further along in the process. So, we do have proper controls in place to deal with any misspending. And, at this point, we have no indication that it's not being spent as intended.

What we know for certain is that our colleagues in states share our commitment to improving results for kids with disabilities, and I for one am extremely confident that the ARRA funds will go a long way in helping states achieve both short and long-term outcomes towards that end.

Alexa Posny, director of the Office of Special Education Programs at the U.S. Department of Education, laughs during a staff meeting on Dec. 21, 2006, in Washington. Christopher Powers/Education Week-File

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