Schools hire pricey specialists to deal with federal grant rules

Julie Grace:

In an ideal world, Jeff Kasuboski, superintendent of the Wautoma Area School District in central Wisconsin, would revamp his after-school program. Rather than students interacting only with kids their own age, he’d have them volunteer and spend time with an “untapped resource” — senior citizens.

But because the coordinator of the after-school program, which is partially financed with federal dollars, spends nearly 50 percent of her time also applying for and administering all of the district’s federal grants, as well as complying with their voluminous regulations, she doesn’t have time to coordinate visits by students to nursing homes, community centers or to seniors’ private homes. And Kasuboski doesn’t expect that to change.

“I just don’t see federal regulations getting less restrictive anytime soon,” he says.

Wautoma’s experience is not unique. Of the 451 local school officials who responded to a Badger Institute survey this summer, 56 say their district was forced to hire additional staff to keep up with the administration of federal grants, which help fund everything from special education to school lunches. Another 85 officials say they would hire more staff if their district could afford to. The two groups accounted for 31 percent of the officials who responded to the survey. And many of those who say they manage grants with current staff complain it often means overtime and added stress for their office employees.