By Iuliana Petre
Killeen Daily Herald
The Killeen Independent School District, a longtime recipient of a pre-kindergarten expansion grant, is facing the possibility of discontinued funding as a result of amended language in the recently proposed Texas Education Agency's commissioner's rules.
The proposed rules suggest that Tier 1 recipients of the grant – valued at nearly $2.5 million – will be districts where third-grade students performed below the state average on the TAKS exam.
Tier 2 recipients, second in priority to receive the funding, would be districts that participated in Cycle 14 of the grant and are eligible to receive continued funding on the basis that the school district demonstrated improved TAKS scores for the last three consecutive years and successful implementation of a pre-kindergarten program.
Tier 3 recipients are those districts that participated in Cycle 14 of the grant and are eligible for the grant on the basis of the district's below-state-average performance on the TAKS.
"We shouldn't be relegated to Tier 1," said Dr. Robert Muller, the district's interim superintendent on Tuesday, adding that some districts are arguing that the TEA is "incentivizing poor performance" by only funding districts with low TAKS scores.
And although that's not KISD's argument, Muller explained that a couple of years ago, under House Bill 1, TEA expanded the eligibility requirements for full-day pre-kindergarten programs to military dependents.
"Just a couple of years ago the TEA made this change (to fund full-day prekindergarten programs for military dependents) and now they're turning around and saying, 'sorry, we're not going to fund you under this new grant,'" Muller said.
During a Nov. 18 board of trustees meeting, Muller asked the trustees to grant him approval to submit a letter to the TEA requesting reconsideration of the new commissioner's rules.
Since the granting of his request, Muller's office has drafted a letter, which will be mailed to the TEA by Tuesday, the closing date for the public comment period.
The district's letter, co-signed by Muller and Joe Maines, the board of trustees' president, urges TEA Commissioner Robert Scott to reconsider the proposed rules and expand the eligibility requirements required for pre-K funding to military dependents.
"We think the TEA should fix the proposed rules and continue providing (KISD) the expansion grant," Muller said.
Muller and Maines also wrote that the proposed new rules "would severely impact the existing pre-kindergarten program" and without the funding, "the district will likely return to providing half-day pre-kindergarten service. This would result in a step backward in what has been an innovative early childhood program and would only add to the stress of our military families."
"We feel our story is so compelling and we hope (Scott and TEA members) will see our point of view and make the appropriate adjustments," Muller said.
As far as the district's inability to fund a full-day pre-kindergarten program out of its own budget, Muller said,
"That's an option we'll have to face. We'll see what happens and consider all of the options."
Muller and members of the KISD administration provided Maj. Gen. Rick Lynch's office at Fort Hood with a docket containing information about the new proposed commissioner's rules and requested that Lynch submit a request to the TEA explaining the impact on military families if the funding is withdrawn.
Contact Iuliana Petre at email@example.com or (254) 501-7469.