Project for 21st Century Federalism

The Project for 21st Century Federalism is the Badger Institute's multi-year investigation of the growth in federal grants and their effect on state and local governance. The project was launched in September 2016.

How federal grants are turning state governments against their own people​​​​​​

Almost a third of the money in many state government budgets now comes directly from Washington, D.C. But why are federal taxpayers paying for Wisconsin’s bike paths?


Federal Grant$tanding book

How federal grants are depriving us of our money, liberty and trust in government - and what we can do about it. New book by the Badger Institute urges states to push back.

Read book here.

Read press release here.


Sunshine Week: Records request illustrates lack of transparency of federal school funding

It would seem a simple question to ask of any public agency: How much money do you spend and on what? But when the Badger Institute wanted to know about federal funding of school districts around the state, getting answers was more difficult than we imagined.


Private school principals say federal funding process is flawed

Special needs students are left behind because of inequitable allocation of federal resources, administrators say in Badger Institute survey.



Teachers want to help kids, not do paperwork

Federal requirements in special education are especially burdensome, educators tell the Badger Institute in a survey. “I love my job working with special education students,” one teacher writes in the survey. “But there is so much paperwork."


Educators decry feds' heavy-handed approach toward local schools

"I have to do a lot of paperwork and spend time testing my kids instead of teaching my kids."

Survey of Wisconsin teachers

Results of Badger Institute survey in November-December 2017 of Wisconsin public school teachers who work under federally funded programs.

Wisconsin school officials want federal role in local education reduced

Funding regulations hamper districts and don’t improve education, local officials say in survey.

Full school survey on federal funding

Results of Badger Institute survey in July-August 2017 of Wisconsin school superintendents, school board members and business managers on federal funding.

Invasion of the federal bean counters

Hordes of Wisconsin government workers are employed to "check boxes" for the feds. Fully 71 percent of the 1,632 workers at the Department of Workforce Development are paid with federal funds, part of a slow takeover of that state government agency. The story is the same at other major Wisconsin agencies.


Schools hire pricey specialists to deal with complex federal grant rules

Paperwork takes staff away from daily responsibilities and educating kids, officials say.

Cutting federal grants can be political suicide for elected officials

Effort to scrap popular Great Lakes Restoration Initiative is a case study in how difficult it is to reduce spending.

Act 10 savings torpedoed

Federal regulations force school districts to spend those savings in another way or else face funding cuts. “Rules get in the way of innovation and progress. Rules around maintenance of effort hurt education. Paperwork gets in the way of spending time on students,” writes one superintendent responding to a Badger Institute survey.

The shameless chase for federal money

Private contractors help states grab more U.S. dollars at the expense of serving children and the poor. In too many cases, federal auditors are finding, the services are little more than a computer-driven, high-tech flimflam that ends with states being forced to pay back millions and the needy lost in the shuffle.

DeVos vows to free local educators from paperwork

U.S. education secretary Betsy DeVos also plans to give them more say over federal school dollars.

Press release on ESSA plan

Following publication of Badger Institute story, Gov. Scott Walker asks the Wisconsin Department of Public Instruction to resubmit the state's federal education funding plan.

Federal rules distort local education policy

School officials make decisions they wouldn’t make otherwise to comply with funding requirements.

Wisconsin legislators missing opportunity in ESSA to take control of education

The vast majority of local school officials in Wisconsin say they could better serve their students if they had more control over how federal dollars are spent, according to a Badger Institute survey.

Follow the money: Federal grants are the key to constraining bureaucracy

Federal grants usually drive up state and local spending; all that counting, check-writing and auditing costs money.

Federal grants obscure spending, diffuse accountability

“Federal agencies have over time adopted a culture of contempt for the public’s right to know,” says Bill Lueders of the Wisconsin Freedom of Information Council. It’s especially difficult for the public, journalists and even politicians to track the hundreds of billions of dollars in federal grants distributed to states, local governments and private entities.


HUD report leaves questions unanswered regarding tribe's use of federal funds

The St. Croix Chippewa tribe is making changes in how it manages federal housing funds in response to a 2015 audit critical of the tribe’s use of $2.3 million in federal housing grants.

The bureaucratic 'skim' of federal school funding

Managing federal education dollars is costing Wisconsin taxpayers millions and benefiting children hardly at all.

The federalization of Wisconsin DPI

Nearly half of Wisconsin Department of Public Instruction employees owe their livelihood to the federal government as they execute some 59 federal education-related programs.

Presentation to federalism committee

Mike Nichols and Dan Benson of the Badger Institute make a presentation on Jan. 24, 2017, to the Assembly Committee on Federalism and Interstate Relations. Wisconsin alone now receives nearly one-third of all state budget revenues from Washington, D.C. — and, as a result, has forfeited control over vast areas of policy and spending.


Federal fair housing rule threatens local control

New regulation for adding diversity to suburbs and towns is social engineering, critics say.

Keeping ‘real money’ local helps solve real problems

The questions we should be asking, however, are: Why aren’t our problems getting better? What value does the Washington bureaucracy add?

Congressman calls for more investigation into tribes’ spending of federal grants

U.S. Rep. Sean Duffy is seeking a forensic audit of all federal monies awarded to the Lac Courte Oreilles Band of Lake Superior Chippewa after 113 tribal members sent him a petition alleging mismanagement of federal grants.

Analysis: Cash-strapped school districts burdened by federal grant regulations

Thousands of hours of staff time and millions of tax dollars statewide will be spent by school districts to prepare the so-called annual Single Audit of federal funds that flow to local school districts.

West Allis school district weaning itself from some federal money

After years of chasing federal grant money, district officials are determined to no longer allow the lure of federal grants to steer spending decisions.

Duffy calls for HUD action on tribe's misuse of funds

U.S. Rep. Sean Duffy (R-Wis.) is asking federal housing officials to explain why grants meant to help needy members of the St. Croix Chippewa tribe may not be getting to those most needing that assistance.

While poverty persists for St. Croix Chippewa, tribe officials misuse federal funds, audit shows

Over the years, dozens of families have at times languished on waiting lists for housing assistance and in 2014 and 2015 federal audits show tribal housing officials loaned themselves housing money without proper oversight.

Tribes in Wisconsin and across the U.S. misusing millions in federal housing funds

In recent years, more than a dozen Indian tribes from North Carolina to Wisconsin to California have come under fire for misusing federal housing funds.

St. Croix Chippewa members have decried council secrecy for years

The way the St. Croix Chippewa Tribal Council operates in secrecy has gone largely unnoticed by federal watchdogs, but not by tribal members who have complained loudly about the practice for decades.

Press release on launch of Federal Grant$tanding project

In September 2016, the Badger Institute launched its “Federal Grant$tanding” project, a multi-year investigation of the growth in federal grants used by D.C. politicians to curry favor with voters.