Failing grade on No Child Left Behind could redirect money

The U.S. Department of Education says Kansas gets a failing grade when it comes to meeting No Child Left Behind mandates. And that could cause the Kansas State Department of Education to lose out on a big chunk of federal funding.

But that wouldn’t mean local school districts would suffer, because the federal dollars would instead go straight to local school districts.

“The funds will stay in the state, but they won’t be used for administrative purposes at the state (education) department. They’ll be passed through to the district to use in local programs,” Deputy Education Commissioner Tom Foster said Friday.

It’s the federal government’s way of encouraging the state to meet requirements of the federal No Child Left Behind law.

If the dollars are redirected to the districts, that would have a big effect on the state education department’s budget.

“Those funds pay salaries of people who work with the districts, so it’s a real burden on the agency if we don’t have those funds,” Foster said.

There are eight states in the country, including Kansas, in this situation.

Kansas Education Commissioner Bob Corkins said the state’s low rating was due to the way the state tests students and reports their scores. He said it doesn’t reflect a poor education system.

“It really is just technical compliance to assure the validity and the reliability of the process,” Corkins said.

Corkins said he thought the state would meet the standards before the federal government finalizes its decision to redirect the money.

“This is just a regular process the federal government goes through, and we have all the confidence in the world we’ll be able to respond to the questions and keep things running smoothly,” Corkins said.

Next week several members of the state education department will have a phone conference with federal counterparts to determine where Kansas goes from here, and to find out whether the state will get another chance to correct its mistakes before the money goes directly to local districts.