Leaders of Gov. Bobby Jindal’s administration said Tuesday the state has opted against applying for a $60 million federal grant to aid early childhood education.
“The grant has strings attached that will force more state and federal control on our education system,” state Department of Children and Family Services Secretary Ruth Johnson said in a prepared statement.
Last week, four officials said the state would not pursue the grant.
Kyle Plotkin, Jindal’s press secretary, said then that no final decision had been made on the application, which is due on Wednesday.
But after Sen. Mary Landrieu, D-La., issued a statement on Tuesday urging the Jindal administration to apply, state officials made it official — no application.
The money is essentially a third round of Race to the Top dollars in which states compete for federal aid.
This one is aimed at improving the quality of early learning and closing the achievement gap for children with high needs because of poverty and other issues.
In her statement, Landrieu said a team of experts “worked diligently to prepare the state’s application for the competition.
“I hope that Gov. Jindal and his administration will recognize their important efforts and support the application,” she said.
Johnson said the state is already trying to streamline its early childhood education programs because it has separate funding sources, different quality standards and no clear governance structure.
“The grant would require providers to follow yet another set of federal regulations that present additional burdens,” she said.
“In short, the Early Childhood Learning Challenge adds more red tape to a system already mired in red tape,” Johnson said.
Despite predictions to the contrary Louisiana failed in two earlier attempts to land Race to the Top dollars, which are supposed to reward states for innovative public school policies.
About $500 million is at stake nationally.
Backers of the grant said last week that they thought the state had a good chance to land the $60 million, which would be allocated over four years.
Acting State Superintendent of Education Ollie Tyler echoed Johnson’s comments about problems with Louisiana’s current early childhood setup.
“We need to completely revamp these programs and streamline our oversight, our funding streams and our quality standards,” Tyler said.