DALLAS, Texas — On the morning of September 19, Education Commissioner Michael Williams addressed the full State Board of Education (SBOE) about his intention to submit an application for a federally funded universal preschool grant that is part of President Obama’s Pre-K for All program, which Breitbart Texas reported.
Williams decision to pursue this grant with its potential pot of $30 million a year for four years is part of this new Fed Led Ed preschool competition. The Commissioner commented that his decision had raised concerns for some Texans about student privacy issues, data-collection and the Common Core.
Williams, in fact, got a little tongue tied when he quipped about the federal grant, saying that it won’t introduce Common Core into the state. Emphatically, he also told the Board that this wasn’t standardized or part of any high-stakes assessments and he promised that if the criteria established in the process didn’t fall in line with Texas values, he would not pursue the expansion grant.
Accordingly, Texas Education Agency (TEA), spokeswoman DeEtta Culbertson told Breitbart Texas that the specifics of the grant are “being developed right now.”
Williams added, “We will develop a proposal that is consistent with Texas values and interests, and does not cede any state or local control on this front.”
In tandem with his SBOE address, the TEA issued a statement from the Commissioner that read, “Over the course of the next several weeks, agency staff will be working to design a proposal that clearly defines how our state would utilize those federal dollars. First and foremost, that proposal will reflect what is best for Texas.”
Another section of the statement echoed additional comments Williams made at the SBOE meeting. It read, “It is important to note that if in the course of developing the particulars of our proposal we find the grant requirements are such that we cannot meet them in a way that is consistent with our interests, we will ultimately not apply. We have an opportunity, if done well, to do something of great value for Texas families and children and, perhaps, lead the nation on this issue. Leading without compromising our values is something we do as Texans.”
Concerns over the grant stemmed from the fact that this is a preschool grant program jointly administered by the U.S. Department of Education (USDOE) and the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. It’s part of the new Preschool Development Grants Program. Competitive grants are housed under the Office of Early Learning (OEL).
According to the TEA, these grant programs award federal funds to “help states build, develop and expand voluntary, high-quality preschool programs for low- and moderate-income families,” according to the TEA press release.
Besides the expansion grant, other Big Education big bucks contests are for “development” grants to create pre-k programs or enhance them in weakly state-funded programs and for Race to the Top–Early Learning Challenge (RTT-ELC), the latter which is the early education version of Race to the Top (RTTT).
RTTT is the original Obama administration competitive grant program that was in the 2009 stimulus package. Data collection, tracking and mining of K-12 students and a beeline to the Common Core State Standards have been disconcerting realities of RTTT.
The Expansion Grants Executive Summary outlines that the type of grant Williams is applying for is for states that have “more robust State-funded preschool programs or that have been awarded a Race to the Top–Early Learning Challenge grant.” The Commissioner is not applying for RTT-ELC.
The summary also describes the program as being for “high-quality preschool programs to be located in regionally diverse communities or consortia of communities in cities, towns, counties, neighborhood, districts, rural areas, or tribal lands, with a high level of need or distress as determined by the State.”
As previously reported, all of these new competitive grants are based on Early Head Start, the preschool version of Head Start. Studies have shown disappointing early educational benefits for youngsters who have partaken in this $8 billion a year federally funded comprehensive daycare for low income children and their families.
The application deadline for expansion grant is October 14, 2014. Contest winners will be announced by the federal government in December. Awarded dollars begin serving students on or before December 31, 2015.
Follow Merrill Hope on Twitter @OutOfTheBoxMom.