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THE STATE EDUCATION DEPARTMENT / THE UNIVERSITY OF THE STATE OF NEW YORK / ALBANY, NY 12234

Office of P-20 Education Policy
Child Nutrition Program Administration
89 Washington Avenue, Room 375 EBA, Albany, NY 12234
Phone: (518) 473-8781 Fax: (518) 473-0018

To: 
School Food Service Directors/Managers
From: 
Frances N. O'Donnell, Coordinator
Date: 
Thursday, January 1, 2009
Subject: 
Cooperation with Federal Communications Commission's (FCC) E-Rate Audits

USDA has been asked to address the appropriateness of providing information to contractors auditing school districts' receipt of funds under the FCC's E-Rate fund. The FCC, through the Universal Service Administrative Company (USAC), administers the E-Rate program. USAC provides discounts to schools to obtain affordable telecommunication and Internet access; the discount rates are based on the percentage of children who are approved for free and reduced price school meals. USAC has contracted with private firms to conduct audits of the discount rates given to schools. Specifically, auditors have asked for a list of students eligible for free or reduced price meals under the National School Lunch Program (NSLP) who enrolled in the selected schools along with the applications for those students.

Based on information shared with us by the FCC's Office of the Inspector General, USDA has now determined that release of information to their auditors is permitted under section 9(b)(6) of the Richard B. Russell National School Lunch Act (NSLA). That section allows release of certain student eligibility information to Federal education programs. USDA has worked with the FCC to ensure that their audit protocols comply with the requirements of the NSLA.

As long as the audit protocols below are followed, local educational agencies (LEAs) may share individual children's information with authorized FCC auditors. The applicable protocols are to:

  • compare aggregate enrollment data with aggregate free and reduced price eligibility data;
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  • for small sample of eligible students, request their applications (which could include direct certification records);
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  • confirm that an application or other documentation exists for each selected student; and
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  • prohibit auditors from retaining personal student information.

FCC auditors do not have the authority to conduct verification of applications for free/reduced price school meals. Therefore, FCC auditors cannot contact households or other sources (such as assistance agencies or employers) to confirm the information on the application. However, auditors may:

  • Ensure the information on the application was accurately processed; i.e., that the income and the number of persons in the household were totaled correctly and that the appropriate Income Eligibility Guideline was used;
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  • Confirm that the children listed on rosters as eligible for free or reduced price meals have approved applications on file; and
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  • Confirm that the number of children used for statistical purposes is based on approved applications.

Any discrepancies in these areas must be brought to the attention of the LEA.

Further, because these auditors are bound by USDA disclosure requirements, they cannot share or otherwise release individual information. FCC has instructed their auditors that the LEA may redact all information from the application that does not directly show that a student has an approved application or other documentation on file. For example, if the student is identified by his/her student number, the LEA could redact the student's name, address, etc. as long as the student number and approved eligibility status were visible.

Do not hesitate to contact Child Nutrition staff at 518-473-8781 if you have questions regarding E-Rate Audits.

USDA Nondiscrimination Statement

In accordance with Federal civil rights law and U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) civil rights regulations and policies, the USDA, its Agencies, offices, and employees, and institutions participating in or administering USDA programs are prohibited from discriminating based on race, color, national origin, sex, disability, age, or reprisal or retaliation for prior civil rights activity in any program or activity conducted or funded by USDA. 

Persons with disabilities who require alternative means of communication for program information (e.g. Braille, large print, audiotape, American Sign Language, etc.), should contact the Agency (State or local) where they applied for benefits. Individuals who are deaf, hard of hearing or have speech disabilities may contact USDA through the Federal Relay Service at (800) 877-8339.  Additionally, program information may be made available in languages other than English.

To file a program complaint of discrimination, complete the USDA Program Discrimination Complaint Form, (AD-3027) found online at: http://www.ascr.usda.gov/complaint_filing_cust.html, and at any USDA office, or write a letter addressed to USDA and provide in the letter all of the information requested in the form. To request a copy of the complaint form, call (866) 632-9992. Submit your completed form or letter to USDA by:

(1)     mail: U.S. Department of Agriculture
         Office of the Assistant Secretary for Civil Rights
         1400 Independence Avenue, SW
         Washington, D.C. 20250-9410;

(2)     fax: (202) 690-7442; or

(3)     email: program.intake@usda.gov.

This institution is an equal opportunity provider.

 

For Nondiscrimination Statement translations, click here.

Los demás programas de asistencia nutricional del FNS, las agencias estatales y locales, y sus beneficiarios secundarios, deben publicar el siguiente Aviso de No Discriminación:

De conformidad con la Ley Federal de Derechos Civiles y los reglamentos y políticas de derechos civiles del Departamento de Agricultura de los EE. UU. (USDA, por sus siglas en ingles), se prohíbe que el USDA, sus agencias, oficinas, empleados e instituciones que participan o administran programas del USDA discriminen sobre la base de raza, color, nacionalidad, sexo, discapacidad, edad, o en represalia o venganza por actividades previas de derechos civiles en algún programa o actividad realizados o financiados por el USDA.

Las personas con discapacidades que necesiten medios alternativos para la comunicación de la información del programa (por ejemplo, sistema Braille, letras grandes, cintas de audio, lenguaje de seas americano, etc.), deben ponerse en contacto con la agencia (estatal o local) en la que solicitaron los beneficios. Las personas sordas, con dificultades de audición o discapacidades del habla pueden comunicarse con el USDA por medio del Federal Relay Service [Servicio Federal de Retransmisión] al (800) 877-8339. Además, la información del programa se puede proporcionar en otros idiomas.

Para presentar una denuncia de discriminación, complete el Formulario de Denuncia de Discriminación del Programa del USDA, (AD-3027) que está disponible en linea en:http://www.ocio.usda.gov/sites/default/files/docs/2012/Spanish_Form_508_Compliant_6_8_12_0.pdf. y en cualquier oficina del USDA, o bien escriba una carta dirigida al USDA e incluya en la carta toda la información solicitada en el formulario. Para solicitar una copia del formulario de denuncia, llame al (866) 632-9992. Haga llegar su formulario lleno o carta al USDA por:

(1)     correo: U.S. Department of Agriculture
         Office of the Assistant Secretary for Civil Rights
         1400 Independence Avenue, SW
         Washington, D.C. 20250-9410;

(2)     fax: (202) 690-7442; o

(3)     correo electrónicoprogram.intake@usda.gov.

Esta institución es un proveedor que ofrece igualdad de oportunidades.

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