The Indiana Department of Education under state superintendent Tony Bennett failed to use millions of available federal dollars to help students from migrant families, a U.S. Education Department report shows. Bennett, who was ousted by Indiana voters last month, was anointed Wednesday as Florida’s education commissioner.

The report says that federal officials are “very concerned” about Indiana’s “failure to comply with a number of requirements and its inability to expend” federal migrant program funds as directed. The program provides federal funds to states to, among other things, support educational programs for migratory children, ensure that these children who move among states are not penalized by disparities among states in school requirements, and ensure that they receive full opportunities to meet the same standards as other children. Indiana’s Migrant Education Program enrolls about 1,000 eligible migrant students.

Bennett is a close ally of the influential former governor of Florida, Jeb Bush, and while serving as Indiana’s superintendent of public instruction for more than three years, he implemented a series of Bush-style market-based education reforms, including vouchers, charter schools, and an A-F system to grade schools based on standardized test scores.  Bennett was picked by Bush to be the 2012 head of Chiefs for Change, the group of reform-minded state school superintendents put together by Bush and his Foundation for Excellence in Education. Indiana voters were less than enamored with this reform agenda, electing a veteran teacher to succeed him.

A Sept. 28, 2012 report from the federal department’s Office of Migrant Education to Indiana’s Education Department includes a report of findings based on the 2012 targeted review of the Indiana Migrant Education Program. The report says that Indiana received a $6.7 million from federal Migrant Education Program “to provide services to migrant students and parents and to employ MEP staff at the state and local levels.”

But, it says that as of Sept. 26, 2012, the Indiana Education Department “had not drawn down any of the FY 2010 or 2011 funds it received to operate the program.” It also says that the Indiana department “returned a significant amount of MEP funds to the U.S. Treasury in 2007 ($2,669,410), money which would have been awarded before Bennett was appointed though it was not clear when the money was returned.

It further says, quoting the report:

An SEA’s [State Education Agency’s] ability to meet the needs of migratory children on a statewide basis is directly related to the extent to which it can fully and effectively implement the requirements of the program and expend MEP funds. Knowing this, ED 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 period of availability. Below is a list of MEP requirements with which IDOE was not in compliance at the time of the review.
* Program Evaluation –Despite an outstanding finding from ED’s 2007 monitoring review, IDOE still does not have a written evaluation that measures the implementation and results achieved by the program….
*Consolidated State Performance Reporting: IDOE’s CSPR processes, as they relate to the MEP, are not well established and the accuracy of the data is highly questionable….
* Identification and Recruitment —  IDOE’s structure for identifying and recruiting migrant children have been downsized to the point that the State is no longer able to effectively manage this critical task….

There’s more. Here’s the letter and the report: