OGIS’s latest FOIA compliance assessment shows that opportunities exist for the Department of Education’s Chief FOIA Officer to fulfill the statutory duties of ensuring compliance with FOIA and recommending improvements to FOIA implementation.
The Department of Education assessment, the 13th conducted by OGIS, makes seven actionable recommendations for strengthening Education’s FOIA program, which received 3,041 FOIA requests in Fiscal Year 2018. OGIS assessments are based on analysis of FOIA data and applicable documents, direct observation and review of agency FOIA case files, a survey of agency FOIA professionals, and interviews with agency employees and officials.
Earlier this year, after we completed our work but before our report was written, Education’s FOIA operations moved to the Office of the Secretary, and the Director of the Office of the Executive Secretariat became the Chief FOIA Officer. The move raises the profile of the FOIA office within the Department and presents an opportunity for the Chief FOIA Officer to ensure FOIA compliance.
Among the seven recommendations we make are that to comply with FOIA, Education must update its FOIA regulations to reflect amendments to FOIA as well as the Department’s processes for implementing the substantive and procedural changes, and that Education must provide estimated dates of completion to requesters who seek such information.
We also make several recommendations regarding tracking and establishing response time performance standards for program office records searches; using data to set goals for cases closed and pages reviewed by each FOIA processor; and incorporating performance standards into performance plans for all employees with FOIA responsibilities.
To learn more about the Education FOIA program and our recommendations, please download the report.
We will follow up with the Department in 120 days to learn what steps they have taken in response to our recommendations.