MiraCosta admits use of adult ed block grant to pay for a $71,000 grant supervisor for federal WIOA
After months of public comments challenging MiraCosta's use of its state Adult Education Block Grant (AEBG) to pay for its grant supervisor for the federal Workforce Innovation and Opportunty Act (WIOA) grant, MiraCosta has publicly acknowledged that funding of the WIOA position was "not an allowable expense." Board action is expected on March 15, 2018 to eliminate the position after an internal review by a representative from the California Community College Chancellor's office confirmed that the use of the state funds for the WIOA position was questionable. This latest development is but another demonstration that the public seems to know more about what the consortium has been doing than MiraCosta's administrators.
Education activist Lucile Lynch, joined by educators Pam Kerr and May Marr, advocate Laura Makings, students Mary Turk and James Walker, and others began raising questions in November 2017 through public comments to the MiraCosta Board, Academic Senate and others about the local Adult Ed Block consortium's lack of public meetings and questionable funding practices made between April 2016 and December 2017. State law requires that funding allocations must be made via public meetings and with an opportunity for public input. However, the MiraCosta-led consortium stopped having public meetings after members of the public appeared in April 2016 expressing their support of the consortium's 3-year implementation plan with respect to measures supporting MiraCosta' adults with disabilities program. Questions remain regarding who at MiraCosta directed the consortium to stop its public meetings for nearly a year and a half even though state law and the consortium's own governance rules required the meetings. Lynch submitted requests under the CA Public Records Act in late 2017 asking for all documents discussing the termination of the public meetings, but MiraCosta has not yet produced documents responsive to the request.
Members of the public questioned the WIOA expenditure after learning that the expenditure was not approved by the consortium, not included in the consortium's 3-year implementation plan, and not referenced in the consortium's minutes. State fiscal directives also prohibit the use of the state funds to supplant or replace funding, which is exactly what MiraCosta did. Per a personnel requisition dated May 16, 2017 (see image below), an "account string change" was needed so that AEBG funds could be used to retroactively pay for the WIOA position as far back as June 1, 2016 to replace the original funding source for the position.
The funding change was approved by MiraCosta administration during a time when the Consortium was not holding the required public meetings through which it could approve the funding allocation. The consortium has been paying the $71,500 position since June 2016, which means it may have wrongfully paid around $143,000 over the last two years. MiraCosta was also paying for a second WIOA administrator position using another funding source, which when combined with the WIOA grant supervisor position resulted in annual combined salaries totaling over $150,000 to administer a $223,616 grant. Per the the WIOA Act, no more than 5% of the grant amount could be used for administrative costs, or around $11,000. The dean in charge of the AEBG consortium who recommended the funding change recently resigned and will be replaced by Dr. Kate Alder. The administrator who approved the dean's request retired from MiraCosta in early 2017 and was replaced by Dr. Diane Dieckmeyer, who in recent months has been criticized for misstatements relating to the consortium.
In November 2017, Dieckmeyer was asked by the Academic Senate to research whether there was consortium funding available to hire full-time faculty for MiraCosta's adults with disabilities program because students and members of the public had raised concerns about the consortium's failure to implement the measures in the consortium's 3-year implementation plan regarding adults with disabilities. In an attempt to excuse the consortium's failure to follow its 3-year implementation plan (despite being allocated around $3.3 million to implement the plan), Dieckmeyer claimed that the consortium had cut the items for the adults with disabilities program; however documents produced by MiraCosta failed to support the claims.
Dieckmeyer also stated that the consortium had prioritized its use of funding on other student groups that she claimed formed the "four pillars" of the AEBG Act. Funding for items for the adults with disabilities (AwD) program had been cut because she claimed it was but one of many "subgroups" under the AEBG Act. However, both the language of the AEBG Act and correspondence from a representative of the state AEBG leadership team refute her characterization of the AwD program as a subgroup.
Under the AEBG Act, there are no subgroups. There are seven student programs targeted for improvement through the AEBG Act and AwD is one of them. "We have not created any subgroups. We are still following the ... legislation for the Adult Education Block Grant. I am not aware of any decisions made at the state level to place any program areas in subgroups," responded Neil Kelly, a member of the state's AEBG leadership team. A review of MiraCosta's 3-year plan also shows the consortium had recognized the adults with disabilities program as one of its "four pillars" and that it was identified as the most underserved of all the AEBG groups, with only 1.2% of its nearly 12,000 community members' needs met.
Questions remain regarding what MiraCosta will do, if anything, to restore funding to the AEBG fund for allocations made without the required public meetings, especially with respect to the funding used for the WIOA grant supervisor position. An update on the AEBG consortium is expected to be on MCCCD Board agenda for the board's meeting on April 19, 2018.
Upcoming meetings of Interest: • 3/16/18: MiraCosta Academic Senate: Friday, 9 - 11 am, Oceanside Campus Library, Room 1201 (One Bernard Way, Oceanside). • 3/19/18: AEBG Consortium Board meeting: Wednesday, March 21, 10:30 am (rescheduled from 3/21), Community Learning Center (Room 111), 1831 Mission Avenue, Oceanside. (Meeting date has been changed twice. We will continue to monitor).
• 4/19/18: MiraCosta Board meeting: Thursday, 4 pm, Community Learning Center, 1831 Mission Ave., Oceanside, CA. Click here for the agenda