A r c h i v e d  I n f o r m a t i o n

The Teacher's Guide to the U.S. Department of Education - September 2000

Types of Grants

The U.S. Department of Education funds and administers education programs for a variety of purposes and populations. It also recognizes and rewards excellence and improvements by students, schools and communities. This guide briefly describes many of the programs that are relevant to teachers and to the offices that manage the programs. (It is by no means a comprehensive list of all the Department?s services.) The guide also lists telephone numbers that interested parties can call with specific questions about the programs. The following describes the various types of federal government grant programs.

Federal legislation that establishes programs of assistance provides varying degrees of discretion to the federal agency in the administration of the programs. One of the basic variables is the degree to which the federal agency is allowed to determine to whom and how much assistance will be provided. When Congress wishes to decide that itself, it normally provides a formula.

Formula Grants. Money provided under a formula grant program is allotted according to a pre-set formula, based on population, per capita income, specialized clientele or some other measure of need, or a combination of measures specified in the authorizing legislation. Such grants are usually made to state governments but may be made to local governments and can be passed through state governments to institutions within the state. There may be provisions for reallocation of unused funds or restrictions on the rate of program growth or decline. Also specified is the percentage of the program cost that the federal government will share with the recipient population. Whatever the formula, the federal agency is limited to applying that formula and to setting rules for operating such programs within the limits of the formula.

Discretionary Grants. When Congress does not provide a formula for the distribution of available funds, the Department is able to exercise a certain amount of discretion, consistent with the authorizing legislation (hence the term discretionary grants), concerning who may participate in the program, the extent of participation, or both. When this occurs, the Department needs to establish criteria for selection and for program size and growth. It is also necessary to establish some mechanism for competition among applicants. The Education Department General Administrative Regulations spells out the general requirements and selection criteria for discretionary grant programs without specific regulations. For most discretionary grant programs, the Department issues specific program regulations, which are published in the Federal Register and codified annually in the Code of Federal Regulations. In addition, for each program, the Department publishes a notice in the Federal Register each time it invites applications for a new grant award competition. The Department also publishes in the Federal Register other notices related to a discretionary grant competition (e.g., notices of proposed and final annual priorities that apply to a grant competition in a particular program).

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