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Education standards irk Kansas officials

TOPEKA - Even in some Republican bastions, doubts have grown about the federal No Child Left Behind education reform law championed by President Bush. Count Kansas' new education commissioner among the skeptics.

Bob Corkins, hired Tuesday by the State Board of Education, is among an increasing number of people saying federal mandates for student achievement are unrealistic and could bankrupt states.

"I'm concerned -- like a lot of administrators and teachers are -- that it is overly burdensome administratively, and that the federal government is having undue influence over the operation of our public schools for the degree of finances that they've provided," Corkins said.

Under the No Child law, schools are required to make progress each year toward the goal of 100 percent proficiency in reading and math, or face sanctions. The State Board of Education adopted the mandate as part of its accreditation requirements following the law's approval in 2001.

If the state changes its accreditation standards, Kansas schools still would be subject to federal sanctions for failing to meet the goal of making all their students grade-level proficient.

Corkins said he would consider working with the board to pursue waivers from the U.S. Department of Education to grant Kansas more flexibility to comply with the law. That could include seeking more latitude in defining achievement goals used to measure yearly student progress.

In August, Sen. John Vratil, R-Leawood, and Attorney General Phill Kline warned the board that finding enough state revenue to meet the demands of No Child Left Behind could become increasingly difficult as the 2014 deadline approaches. They argued that the Kansas Supreme Court could order even larger funding increases.

Senate Majority Leader Derek Schmidt said it's appropriate for Kansas to give No Child Left Behind another look.

"No Child Left Behind, while embracing admirable goals, constitutes a federal intrusion into state control of education on a scale never seen before," said Schmidt, R-Independence. "Decisions made in Washington may have the effect of prying open state coffers to a level never contemplated."

— John Milburn, Associated Press
Wichita Eagle


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