Preschool funding application approved by Jindal
A dispute over the Common Core education standards won’t sideline Louisiana’s application for up to $15 million in federal grant money for pre-kindergarten programs, Gov. Bobby Jindal decided Monday.
With a Tuesday application deadline looming, Jindal’s office announced that the Republican governor will support Louisiana’s grant request. The decision came after assurances from Education Superintendent John White that the dollars won’t be used to support the multistate standards.
“We appreciate John’s patience and his willingness to take the time to respond to our concerns. He has made it clear that this grant will not fund Common Core standards and the programs funded will not be impacted by a future removal of Common Core standards from our K-12 system, so we will support the grant application,” Jindal spokeswoman Shannon Bates said in a statement.
Jindal opposes the math, English and reading standards — which have been adopted by more than 40 states — as an attempt by President Barack Obama’s administration to take control over local education policy.
White supports Common Core, and the standards are used in Louisiana’s public school classrooms. He said no grant dollars would be spent directly on Common Core, but he also acknowledged early-learning standards are aligned with the standards taught in later grades.
The governor and superintendent had spent days exchanging letters over the grant money, which is designed to help states build or expand preschool programs that serve children from low- and moderate-income families. It comes as Louisiana is in the middle of restructuring its publicly funded pre-K programs, an effort that supporters say needs more funding.
“The opportunity you are considering would provide nearly 800 low-income Louisiana children each year the pre-kindergarten or child care experience of their choice,” White wrote to Jindal.
The U.S. Department of Education sent a letter to Jindal earlier this month, saying the grant criteria don’t require applicants to use Common Core. But the governor sought pledges from White that dollars wouldn’t be spent on Common Core-aligned materials.
White noted that state lawmakers and the governor pushed for a new law that requires the creation of a set of uniform expectations and grading measures across publicly funded preschool and child care programs for children under 5 years old. He described the skills as ranging from identifying colors and shapes to using polite language and sharing.
“Equipping our kids with these skills prepares them to success in any kindergarten, in public or non-public schools, using any standards, Common Core or otherwise,” White wrote in an Oct. 10 letter.
Jindal replied: “You used a lot of words, but did not answer our question. We are looking for a simple yes or no answer, will this grant funding be used on Common Core?”
Additional letters were exchanged, and White directly said “no funds from this grant will be used for purposes related to Common Core State Standards.”
Despite Jindal’s opposition to Common Core, lawmakers and the state education board refused to strip the standards from Louisiana classrooms. The governor is challenging the standards in state and federal court cases.