State education officials plan to submit Connecticut’s grant application for next Race to the Top competition this week. But as the federal government shutdown drags on, state-level officials have no one to answer questions about the federal requirements. Ninety-four percent of the employees at the U.S. Department of Education are on furlough.
Representative Andy Fleischmann, who chairs Connecticut’s Education Committee, said, "It’s a pretty sad state of affairs for the U.S. Department of Education and a lot of other federal departments. The lights are on, but nobody’s home. And that sounds kind of funny unless you’re busy preparing a 300-page application, and you have questions, and there is no one who can provide an answer."
Fleischmann said in the past, federal education employees have allowed state-level officials to call their cell phones with questions. "So it's possible to actually reach the human being," Fleischmann said. "But that person is not permitted to answer any questions relating to their job, because they’re on furlough. And to make it even more ludicrous, once this shutdown ends, the folks who have been put on furlough are going to receive their back pay."
The deadline to submit the next Race to the Top applications is Wednesday. This round of grants will support states’ efforts to expand access to early learning for disadvantaged children.