In a letter to President Barack Obama, Gov. Bobby Jindal said Thursday the state may apply for a federal pre-kindergarten grant of up to $15 million if it is not linked to any Common Core requirements.
Louisiana is overhauling its early childhood education system as a result of a bill pushed by Jindal in 2012.
In his letter, the governor said the Preschool Development Grants published in the Federal Register last month “could offer an opportunity for Louisiana to expand access for parents who choose to send their children to early childhood programs.
“We want to ensure, however, that the grant contains no terms that would require Louisiana to use Common Core-aligned or federally or nationally sanctioned standards in the classrooms of our state’s early childhood programs,” according to the letter.
“For example, the grant’s Competitive Preference Priority 2 requires a smooth continuum of services to K-12 programs, which could implicate our early childhood programs in the nationalization of curriculum,” Jindal wrote.
“Please confirm that there are no such conditions,” he said.
The grants total $250 million nationwide, and Louisiana could qualify for one of up to $15 million, said Shannon Bates, a spokeswoman for the governor.
The money could be used to expand the number of children served.
The deadline application is Oct. 14.
Jindal is opposed to Common Core, which represents new standards in reading, writing and math.
He contends that it represents federal interference in local school issues.
The governor’s legal bids to derail the standards and the tests that go with them are pending in state and federal courts.
The state’s overhaul stems from the Louisiana Early Childhood Education Act, which the Legislature approved two years ago.
The changes are designed to improve a system now marked by uneven quality, standards and availability.
The state is setting up early childhood networks that encompass child care, Head Start and pre-K classes in public and private schools that get funds for pre-K classes.
Officials also will establish early learning performance guidelines for children from infants to age 3 and academic standards for 3- and 4-year-olds.
Critics say only about half of students today enter kindergarten ready to learn.
In his letter, Jindal noted that on Oct. 1 the state’s child care licensing process will be moved from the state Department of Children and Family Services to the state Department of Education so that providers have to deal with only one state agency.
The Jindal administration was criticized less than a year ago for declining to apply for up to $45 million in federal funds to improve pre-K classes.
State Superintendent John White said at the time that such aid “has recently become a flashpoint for those concerned about federal overreach in Louisiana schools.”
A variety of education groups had urged the Jindal administration to apply for the money.
White backs Common Core and the assessments that are supposed to be used next spring.
Backers contend the new standards will improve classroom achievement and make students more competitive with their peers worldwide.
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