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Archive for Wednesday, November 15, 2006

State education board awards charter school grant

Some moderate members express concern about Topeka advocate’s accountability

November 15, 2006

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The outgoing conservative majority on the Kansas State Board of Education on Tuesday approved a $42,000 grant to a group led by a controversial advocate for charter schools.

The board voted 6-3 to award the grant to the Kansas Association of Public Charter Schools, which is headed by education consultant Betty Horton of Topeka.

Kansas Department of Education officials said that under a $10 million grant the department received from the federal government to increase the number of charter schools, it had to award $42,000 to a group that will help existing and new charter schools.

But moderate members on the board said they were concerned that only two organizations applied for the grant.

"This appears to be a very narrow focus," said Sue Gamble, a moderate Republican from Shawnee.

Board member Janet Waugh, a Democrat from Kansas City, Kan., said she opposed the grant because of an earlier round of grants given to Horton, and Horton's family and friends.

In September, Horton and some of her family members and associates each received grants of $1,995 from the Kansas Department of Education to provide technical assistance to organizations wanting to start charter schools.

"I've never seen a check being issued without services being rendered," Waugh said.

Horton has defended her work promoting charter schools, saying that Kansas law needs to be changed to allow more charter schools.

Charter schools generally focus on specific populations of students, such as youths who are having trouble succeeding in a traditional public school. There are 26 charter schools in Kansas.

Voting for the grant award Tuesday were Steve Abrams, R-Arkansas City, John Bacon, R-Olathe, Kathy Martin, R-Clay Center, Connie Morris, R-St. Francis, Iris Van Meter, R-Thayer, and Ken Willard, R-Hutchinson.

Voting against it were Gamble, Waugh and Bill Wagnon, D-Topeka.

Moderate Carol Rupe, R-Wichita, was absent.

In January, a new board will be seated with six moderates and four conservatives.

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