TOPEKA — Kansas won't apply for federal Race to the Top education grants this year because of previous rejections by U.S. Department of Education, Kansas education officials said.
Feedback from the state's previous bids for the funding made it clear Kansas didn't meet all the criteria that the federal agency required for the grants, said Colleen Riley, who oversees early childhood programs at the Kansas State Department of Education. She told The Topeka Capital Journal ( http://bit.ly/14IjqcT ) that the department would need more time to prepare an application, which is due soon.
The federal agency has awarded about $5 billion in Race to the Top grants to 24 states and the District of Columbia since 2009. Another $280 million in grants is being awarded this year for early childhood education. Kansas has previously sought $24.5 million for early childhood programs, which seek to improve the readiness of students before they enter elementary grades.
"When we didn't get the grant, it was clear we didn't meet all the criteria that the Department of Education in Washington, D.C., wanted us to," she said. "And I think there's a feeling across agencies that the same results would occur. We're doing a lot of good things in Kansas, but we're doing it to meet the needs of our clients and communities."
Riley said Kansas would want more time to work with other state agencies and organizations to develop a grant application that was more universal in addressing early childhood learning.
The state's original application linked school districts with state and local agencies on early childhood programs, including making more resources available to help families be better informed about learning options.
"We thought we had a good application and we still do," Riley said. "From a Department of Education perspective, we're using it as a road map."
The Topeka school district is also declining to compete again for federal grants. The U.S. Department of Education awarded $383 million directly to 16 school districts last year and plans to issue another $120 million this year.
Topeka's superintendent, Julie Ford, said the district decided not to apply for the funding based on an Oct. 3 deadline and previous rejection of the district's application.
She said the district sought support from top-level state officials but only got a letter from Rep. Lynn Jenkins, whose congressional district includes Topeka and eastern Kansas. The state's U.S. senators and Gov. Sam Brownback didn't provide letters of support, Ford said.