February 11, 2016

EDITORIAL: State school board made right decision in not applying for federal funds

Kansas did the right thing in declining to apply for a second round of Race to the Top funding. The $4.35 million in funding – part of the American Recovery and Restoration Act more commonly known as stimulus – is to be used exclusively for education.

Kansas applied for a first round of funding, but the State Board of Education decided in April not to seek a second round of funding. Second round grant winners were announced late last month.

To be eligible for the money, states were required to adopt national education standards and tests. In some cases, that meant actually lowering individual state’s education standards. Such was the case in Massachusetts where state officials adopted nation-leading standards and testing programs and replaced them with lesser national standards.

Kansas board members from both ends of the political spectrum listed a number of different reasons for declining to apply for a second round of funding.

In the first round, Kansas scored low in providing alternative pathways for people to earn teacher’s licenses. Interim Kansas Education Commissioner Diane DeBacker said at the time that the alternate pathways to licensing would allow open the doors for those other than higher education institutions to train and license teachers.

Sally Cauble, a board member from Liberal, Kan., worried that accepting funds would lead to more centralized control of public education. It would center school control at the federal and state level rather than with local school boards and parents.

Both used sound reasoning in their desire not to seek the funds – however they missed a key reason for declining to play Washington’s game: federal funds come with strings. Not only are the funds used for the grants money the U.S. doesn’t have, but the strings attached are typically costly to taxpayers as well.

Texas’ Education Commissioner Robert Scott said the price for his state to implement standards required to receive the federal funding would cost nearly $3 billion. The average awarded to states in the second round of Race to the Top funding was $333 million.

The states that applied and fell short should be thanking their lucky stars, and Kansans should be proud that our state board made a wise decision not to even apply for the funds in the first place.


  1. The Patriot says:

    Here is the real reasons published in the Curriculum Leaders Meeting dated April 16th, 2010. The are the documented comments of Interim Commissioner Diane DeBacker. In short the teachers were concerned about having to meet higher standards in terms of their accountability. Specifically tying their performance evaluation to actual student achievement. The RTTT would never punish a State for having higher standards. See this link for the ofiicial document.


    “Race To the Top (RTTT) Update: Diane district several handouts on RTTT. She shared Kansas is not going to reapply for Phase II funding. The State Board made that decision on Tuesday with a 9-0 vote. In Phase I, Kansas was 29th out of 40 applicants. Delaware and Tennessee received funding in Phase I. Sixteen (16) states were in the “finals” and were invited to Washington, D.C. and went through the interview process. Forty-one states and the District of Columbia applied in Phase I. We received comments from 5 reviewers and a total of 41 pages of reviewers comments. Staff went through each of the comments and estimated that we could get approximately 80 points in a rewrite. There are a few areas we would not receive any points due to legislation, etc. For instance, by statute the Kansas State Department of Education is the only entity that can issue a teacher license. There are several areas that we should have done a better job in our application; our narrative was a little weak. The phrase that kept coming out was, “too much talk and not enough action.” Our board discussed this and they came to the conclusion that as a state in the areas where we need to beef up our application they were not willing to do that. In the area of teacher and principal evaluation; they are looking for an evaluation system for all teachers and principals. We have not had those discussions, we have not engaged you and you have not engaged your district or teachers. Also, we have not enough discussion about tying student achievement back to teacher pay. We aren’t ready to do that and you’re not ready to do that. There were 31 projects in our RTTT application, which will be our strategic plan and we will carry through with those projects in one form or another. We are starting to get kick-back for not going for Phase II and Diane has been invited to visit with the Lt. Governor. Diane shared she felt the State Board made the right decision in RTTT. Kansas is the only state, so far, that has publicly announced that they are not going to apply for Phase II. Secretary Duncan released a letter late last night to all Governor’s saying please go for Phase II.”

  2. What a bunch of bull hockey. The graduation portion really hits a hot button with me – why would you ever settle for a graduation rate of 50% or less??? Even those who graduate – are they prepared for college or a job???? I highly doubt if that is the case with many students and people scream about a job problem – who in the Sam Hill would be hiring these people who can’t even fill out an application for employment? As the U.S. gets further down the list in standing with respect to education, I would say those involved in education have a lot to answer for along with the parents who aren’t doing their jobs at home.

    I just know that education costs are one of the highest tax costs for the average citizen – do you think you are getting a bang for your buck?????

  3. The Patriot says:

    The graduation portion of the referenced document has nothing to do with the RTTT.

    However, the referenced document says (if you look closely at the bullet points) — The graduation goal for 2010 is 80% for 2010. However if the actual graduation rate is below 50% the school district must improve by 5% per year. If the actual graduation is between 50% & 80%, the school district must improve by 3% per year. But the goal is to get all school districts at or above 80%.

  4. It doesn’t make any difference to me whether graduation rates has anything to do with RTTT or not – the point is that graduation rates are important to me as a citizen, parent and grandparent.

    And then to have the graduation goal only at 80% does not smack of excellence to me – I want every kid graduating from high school and even college and with the result being that they are EDUCATED – otherwise I will be paying social costs up the gut because people are not educated. More now than ever considering the global econmy that we live in. I believe the high cost of education that we all pay for should get us more than an 80% graduation rate – citizens cannot settle for mediocrity or average – that will be too expensive or not affordable in the long run.

  5. The Patriot says:

    Most any reasonable person would want a 100% graduation rate and, more importantly, that the graduation actually reflects a very high and competitive level of education. One that would be #1 in the world. That is exactly what RTTT is trying to get started. And since we compete in a global economy, I am glad there is an attempt at setting standards at the national level.

    Every child deserves the same opportunity and quality of education no matter where they live and what the circumstances are of the parents.

  6. @Patriot – Thanks for posting that Patriot.

    I think you are right, we need to start somewhere to set a level of expectation.

  7. You’ll never the actual percentage of kids that graduate unless you track every freshman thru grade 12. Kids don’t “drop out” these days, they are homeschooled or transfer never to be seen again. The state of public education is dismal.

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