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THURSDAY, SEPTEMBER 13, 2007
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Education grants now require more information from legislators

By Phillip Rawls
Associated Press Writer

MONTGOMERY — Alabama legislators planning to send state grants to educational projects in their districts will now have to provide more information before a check is written.

The Executive Commission on Community Service Grants voted Wednesday to require more information from legislators, although it was not as much as one member, State Treasurer Kay Ivey, wanted.

Fire College case

The commission has been stepping up the information it requires from legislators since state Rep. Bryant Melton, D-Tuscaloosa, pleaded guilty in July 2006 to funneling state grant money through the Alabama Fire College's private foundation to pay for his gambling debts and his daughter's medical school fees.

The guilty plea cost Melton his seat in the Legislature and brought increased scrutiny of Alabama's two-year college system.

The executive commission — consisting of the treasurer, agriculture commissioner, state school superintendent and lieutenant governor — has to approve legislators' choices for the grants before the state issues a check.

For the fiscal year starting Oct. 1, the Legislature has appropriated almost $14.8 million, nearly a $1 million increase over this year.

The commission voted to require legislators to provide more information about what the grant will purchase or what types of services will be provided. If the grant is for scholarships, legislators must provide more information about how many students will get the scholarships and how they are selected.

Audits

The commission already required the recipients to be audited, but under the new rules the recipients must make the audits available for public inspection.

The public schools, school boards, colleges and universities that receive the grants already have audits publicly available in Montgomery. Ivey wanted to require the other recipients, such as nonprofit groups, to send audit reports to Montgomery, but she was voted down by Superintendent Joe Morton and Agriculture Commissioner Ron Sparks.

Morton said no office in Montgomery needed truckloads of paperwork "that no one will ever look at."

Ivey had also wanted the commission to ban recipients from using the grants to give awards and incentives to students. She said school support groups, such as the Parent Teacher Associations, should pay for awards and incentives, but she was voted down.

"Sometimes these students need a pat on the back," Sparks said.

Copyright 2005 Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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