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Education Commissioner Vies For $30 Million In Contest That Will Bring Obama's Universal Pre-K Into Texas

Education Commissioner Vies For $30 Million In Contest That Will Bring Obama's Universal Pre-K Into Texas

DALLAS, Texas — Texas Education Commissioner Michael Williams notified the U.S. Department of Education that the Texas Education Agency (TEA) will submit an application for a federal preschool expansion grant that is part of the Obama Administration’s Pre-K for All program, the Texas Education Agency (TEA) announced in a news release on September 10, 2014.

Texas stands to win up to $30.8 million in the first year just from matching state funds and up to $308 million from Big Education, according to the 2013 White House document “Increasing Access to High Quality Early Childhood Education in Texas.” The TEA release accounted for $160 million of the funding.

This jointly administered program by the US Education Department and US Department of Health and Human Services is another competitive grant program that will award federal funds to help states build or expand on high-quality preschool programs for low and moderate income families.

It’s housed under the Office of Early Learning, which also offers development grant competitions to establish full-day universal preschool  and Race to the Top – Early Learning Challenge (RTT-ELC), the junior version of Race to the Top (RTTT), the original $ 4.3 billion contest that kicked off the Common Core controversy. The Washington Post called RTTT “a clever way around federal laws that prohibit Washington from interfering in what takes place in the classroom.”

Breitbart News reported on the President’s 2014 State of the Union address where he urged states to partake in RTTT Pre-K funding, also as part of Common Core. Even though Texas did not participate in RTTT, Houston ISD applied independently for a district version of the Fed Led Ed grant and won $30 million in 2013.

Obama’s universal preschool is rooted in Early Head Start, a pre-preschool version of Head Start. Head Start’s Program Standards or the National Institute for Early Education Research are cited as the program’s benchmarks.  This pre-K also comes with a mandate for voluntary home visits.

According to the 2013 White House blog, these home visiting programs enable nurses, social workers, and other professionals to connect families to services and educational support that will improve a child’s health, development, and ability to learn.

However, Head Start findings have been dismal, showing no real lasting benefits; yet, the President intends to expand on it to grow national preschool while incentivizing full-day kindergarten policies.

The Preschool Development Grants presentation stated that two program requirements for the preschool development, expansion and RTT- ELC programs are a longitudinal data system “linking early childhood and K-12 data,” and providing researchers “with access to data.”

One of the greatest outcries against the Common Core has been over privacy issues and data-tracking and collection of the nation’s K-12 population as Breitbart Texas reported. Like the Common Core, this preschool is also touted as voluntary, state led, and high quality standards that are evidence-based. In reality, education experts have deemed the Fed Led Ed program as unproven, low quality, and far from voluntary or state led.

Eligible four year-old children must come from families whose income is 200% or below the federal poverty line, in a distressed or “high needcommunity” that is Promise zoned. Promise zones are also known as Promise neighborhoods and are also part of the American Federation of Teacher’s “Promise Schools,” a union initiative that transforms the local public school into the hub of community life, which Breitbart Texas reported. Children identified as under the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) are also eligible.

“One way to begin closing the achievement gap in Texas is to better prepare children who are entering our public schools,” Williams stated in the TEA release. “With many high-quality pre-k programs already established in our communities, this federal grant opportunity allows an avenue to enhance and build upon that success.”

Also, the White House document from last year claimed that universal preschool was fully funded through the President’s budget, investing $75 billion over 10 years into Fed Led Ed, Jr. without adding “one dime to the deficit.”

The estimated first year instate enrollment is 37,644 children from low and moderate income brackets plus another 61,897 Texas toddlers (aged 0-3) currently served by the Child Care and Development Block Grant’s infant and toddler Head Start plus 126,521 low income mothers identified as giving birth each year who may benefit by this government program.

This will bring more Fed Led Ed into Texas. Breitbart Texas has reported on how Texas has inched its way into a K-12 federal noose through the No Child Left Behind (NCLB) waiver and new College & Career Readiness Standards on its student accountability and teacher evaluations. This continues to erode the separation between the state’s education standards and Fed Led Ed, even though Texas did not adopt the Common Core State Standards.

According to the TEA news release, Texas is one of 35 states, along with the District of Columbia, that is eligible for this big bucks expansion grant contest because it serves a required 10 percent or more of four-year olds in established preschool programs.

TEA will submit its formal application by the Oct. 14 submission deadline. The federal government will then announce winners in December. Under the program criteria, awarded funds will begin serving students on or before Dec. 31, 2015.

Follow Merrill Hope on Twitter @OutOfTheBoxMom.

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