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Kansas legislature

Kansas Legislature

Southeast Kansas school superintendent unhappy with Brownback using welfare funds for reading

December 7, 2013

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— Steve Woolf, a school superintendent in Neosho County, said his jaw hit the table when he learned that Gov. Sam Brownback was going to use welfare funds to pay for a reading program directed at grade-school students in southeast Kansas.

"I'm against taking food from people who are in need and are hungry," said Woolf, who leads the Erie-Galesburg school district, which has about 550 students. "It is morally wrong," he said.

Brownback recently announced a plan to take $12 million from the Temporary Assistance to Needy Families program and use those federal dollars to try to raise fourth-grade reading scores.

TANF funds are typically used to provide cash assistance to families in poverty.

But the administration has said the reading program is an appropriate use of TANF funds because studies show girls who read at grade level are less likely to become unwed mothers, which is a goal of the TANF program as a strategy to reduce poverty.

"I want to see us break the cycle of child poverty," Brownback said.

Brownback has joined forces with the charity Save the Children, which already has in place a reading program in Pittsburg, and the Rural School and Community Trust to assist in the program in several school districts in southeast Kansas.

Woolf's district wasn't one of those included in the initiative.

"We didn't get a call or anything," he said.

But Woolf said had the district been chosen, he would have turned it down because the funds are being diverted from TANF.

Woolf said Brownback should have consulted educators with the Kansas Department of Education before embarking on this proposal.

"It would be like the governor wanting to do something different with the Statehouse dome and saying, 'I have a buddy in Oklahoma who put a new roof on his garage and he seems to know what he is doing,' " Woolf said.

Woolf said he is a Republican, as is Brownback, and a past admirer of the governor's.

Back in the mid-1980s, Woolf, then a student at Kansas State, served with Brownback on the board of the Flint Hills Breadbasket, which distributed food to the poor.

"He was a young lawyer and caring about people," Woolf said about Brownback.

He said as he followed Brownback's career, he cheered him on, but now he said the governor is a politician "not a statesman."

Comments

William Weissbeck 4 months, 2 weeks ago

Am I reading this correctly (I used to say right, but I don't want to be misunderstood), the redirected TANF funds aren't going to the schools, but to some private sector charity? Why doesn't Brownback just steal the money - that would be more honest.

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Brendan Hansen 4 months, 2 weeks ago

$12 million from a program that receives $101.9 million a year in federal dollars alone, and has a $41 million+ reserve fund. Furthermore, there's a whole list of other programs that have received funding like this, and the reading program fits right in with those. Suggesting that this money is coming out of the pockets of the poor is either disingenuous or ignorant.

Read more: http://www.morningsun.net/article/20131206/OPINION/131209952/10018/OPINION#ixzz2mwY6MLxu

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Lane Signal 4 months, 2 weeks ago

Is this just a moral stand against feeding the hungry or is there some underlying agenda? What is Brownie up to here? Based on his track record, I can understand the looting of Federal dollars earmarked to assist the poor, but I would have expected him to try to steer this money to the wealthy and/or financial supporters. Is this just a territorial maneuver? Is he just trying to assert that he does not have to spend Federal money as those who provided it specified? Is this another attempt to paint himself as the education governor even as he and his party gut education funding aggressively? My theory is that Brownie's most dear and precious initiative this term is to create a hostile climate for the poor, the needy and the disabled. Anything he can do to stick it to these groups, he seems to go out of his way to do it. And if this allows a little more money into education funding, that's a sacrifice he is willing to make. Heck of a job Brownie.

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Michael LoBurgio 4 months, 2 weeks ago

Brownback: Shift needy family funds to reading program

Children's advocate says plan to shift money from 'lowest-income families' doesn't make sense

“As the child poverty rate continues to climb, it doesn’t make sense to shift dollars away from struggling families to programs that focus on literacy later in a child’s life," said Shannon Cotsoradis, president and CEO of Kansas Action for Children. "TANF dollars are meant to help the lowest-income families in the state when they find themselves in temporary situations in which they are not able to pay for basic needs like food, shelter and utilities.”

http://cjonline.com/news/2013-11-14/brownback-shift-needy-family-funds-reading-program

http://www2.ljworld.com/users/photos/2013/dec/08/265679/

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Lee Henry 4 months, 2 weeks ago

brownback is not a politician or a govenor...he is a dictator.....who is in the wrong state with his crazy ideas....

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