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Archive for Sunday, February 15, 2004

Ryun, state split on school funding woes

February 15, 2004

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— Kansas still has $16 million in federal funds available to help implement the federal No Child Left Behind act, suggesting that complaints about the education law's costs are misguided, U.S. Rep. Jim Ryun said Friday.

A top state education official responded that the money eventually will be tapped as school districts signal their need for the aid.

The money must be spent by Sept. 30.

The No Child Left Behind law requires that all students are proficient in math and reading by 2014, and penalizes schools for not making adequate progress each year toward that goal. Congress appropriated money to help meet the costs, such as for programs to improve students' scores on standardized tests.

Critics in many states -- including Kansas Gov. Kathleen Sebelius -- have said the funding was inadequate to meet the law's mandates.

Ryun, R-Kan., said in a news release Friday the fact that Kansas has yet to spend all of the money allocated in recent years should end complaints, which he called "hard to believe."

His spokesman, Nick Reid, noted that some of the funds in question were appropriated in 2001.

"If you needed it, why didn't you spend it?" he asked.

Sebelius' office did not respond Friday to Ryun's statements.

But Dale Dennis, the state's assistant education commissioner, said the money would be used by Sept. 30. He said federal law gave states more than two years to spend the aid.

"We don't leave anything on the table," he said.

Federal law prohibits school districts from drawing on the funds until they need the money to cover expenses, Dennis said. Some districts plan to spend the federal aid only after they exhaust other sources, fearing that Congress won't reauthorize the funding, he added.

"Our schools are trying diligently to stretch these dollars as efficiently and effectively as possible," Dennis said.

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