U.S. Department of Education ranking official Christine Jackson disclosed a plan to turn in a new waiver for maintenance-of-effort requirement that seeks an exemption for the CNMI from using the national threshold set for the education budget.
Jackson, U.S. Secretary Arne Duncan's senior risk management consultant, arrived on island last Friday for a short visit. She is on Saipan primarily to validate and confirm the public schools performance in fulfilling the goals of the American Recovery Reinvestment Act's state fiscal stabilization fund, which awarded the CNMI Public School System $34.3 million for various infrastructure projects in 2009.
Along with the Board of Education members and key PSS leaders, led by commissioner Dr. Rita A. Sablan, Jackson also sought an audience with acting governor Eloy S. Inos Friday morning to articulate the federal MOE requirement.
“I articulated to the lieutenant governor [Inos] that MOE is an annual process and if there's a need to request for a waiver, it must be submitted every year. CNMI-PSS has already submitted a waiver for 2009 and was approved by USDOE. At the conclusion of our meeting [today], it seems the CNMI is going to prepare a new waiver submission for FY 2010,” Jackson told Saipan Tribune in an exclusive interview Friday at the PSS central office.
Jackson said the MOE is set to ensure that resources for education is not diminished or shortchanged in all entities. However, she pointed out that the federal government could also approve a waiver based on the factors to be presented by requesting entity such as the CNMI. Among these factors is the economic slowdown that may affect an entity's capability to meet the MOE threshold.
She added that the “waiver” allows an entity to come up with “Plan B.” She said approval of waiver will be based on supporting documents and audit that will show actual expenditures and revenues as requested by USDOE.
Based on USDOE determination, PSS must get a 25 percent share of the entire local government budget in FY 2009 based on the MOE threshold. This was never met by the local government, resulting in unremitted MOE of $11.3 million for PSS.
Jackson revealed that the new waiver to be submitted by the CNMI will cover FY 2010.
She told Saipan Tribune that all she can promise to the CNMI for now, is she will share with Washington, D.C. the information and concerns she personally received on island.
She admitted, however, that “pieces of communications” will be needed to take place before USDOE can draw a conclusion or approval.
Besides her meeting with Inos, Jackson also spoke before education leaders during their leadership institute at the Kagman High School last Friday. She also inspected PSS' pupil transportation department in Lower Base where a new state-of-the-art bus facility is located. At noon Friday, Jackson was seen at the PSS federal programs office where she also made some assessment and inspection.
Today, Jackson is scheduled to visit schools and meet with some lawmakers.