AP: Kansas leaders will not back Topeka schools' grant effort

12/7/2012

TOPEKA (AP) — Kansas Gov. Sam Brownback and the state's two U.S. senators refused to support the Topeka school district's application for a $40 million federal grant, the district said.

TOPEKA (AP) — Kansas Gov. Sam Brownback and the state's two U.S. senators refused to support the Topeka school district's application for a $40 million federal grant, the district said.

Topeka School Superintendent Julie Ford said Wednesday that Brownback, U.S. Sens. Pat Roberts and Jerry Moran, all Republicans, declined to write to the U.S. Department of Education to bolster the district's application for a Race to the Top grant.

"It's our tax money, and it's going to go somewhere. So why not Kansas kids?" Ford told The Lawrence Journal-World. U.S. Rep. Lynn Jenkins of Topeka did support the district's application, she said.

The district learned recently that it would not be considered for the three-year grant, which was designed to raise student achievement, narrow the achievement gap and improve teachers' effectiveness.

Brownback's policy director, Jon Hummell, said in an email to Topeka school officials that the governor supports those goals but that Common Core standards have "been questioned by legislators at the state and federal level."

Kansas is among 46 states that have approved the Common Core standards, which are being implemented. The standards are considered more rigorous than previous standards, focusing more on depth of knowledge rather than breadth.

Kansas legislators are seeking an audit to determine the cost of adopting Common Core State Standards.

"I believe it would be more prudent for the governor's office to withhold any endorsement of an application that includes the adoption of the CCSS until we have an opportunity to review the results of the audit," Hummell said.

Moran said Race to the Top grants bring more federal government interference in education and that Kansas school officials told him it would be unlikely that small, rural districts could win grants.

Roberts' staff forwarded to the Journal-World congressional testimony in which he said Kansas educators have told him the Race to the Top grant program puts small/rural states at an unfair disadvantage.

"In addition, I do not believe the federal government should be mandating a one-size-fits-all education reform agenda by proposing a financial reward system in order to force states to make changes deemed worthwhile by the administration," he said.

Most of the grant's proposal was aimed at improving early learning and pre-kindergarten, which Ford said is particularly important in the Topeka school district, where three-fourths of the students are eligible for free or subsidized lunch.

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