Tuesday, October 10, 2006

Kansas Evolution Election: Department accused of writing questionable checks

Moderate state School Board member Sue Gamble plans to press for answers today about what appears to be a free-for-all giveaway of grant money to people favoring charter schools -- a favorite project of the Religious Right.

The real kickers are that Education Commissioner Bob Corkins' staff appear to have (1) sent money to folks who don't even live in Kansas and (2) to have already admitted they sent checks to people who didn't qualify.

The $1,995 checks are supposed to be for Kansans who are looking into starting charter schools. Note that the amount of the checks is crucial because at the $2,000 level, grant checks have to be reviewed.

Gamble's plan is to ask for an explanation at today's state Board of Education meeting. The Wichita Eagle writes editorializes:

* Four of the grants went to Topeka charter school advocate Betty Horton and her husband and to her sister and brother-in-law, who have a Georgia mailing address. Most of the other grant recipients are associates of Horton, including several who live in Kansas City, Mo.

* Gamble asked for the names of everyone who received grants, and Deputy Education Commissioner Larry Englebrick gave her a list of 16 people. But the business office at the Department of Education told Gamble that it issued grant checks to 21 individuals and two organizations.

* The business office was told to pay the entire grant amount up front, rather than making a partial payment or waiting to pay until services had been provided, as is its normal policy.
Gamble isn't buying the explanations. "This stinks to high heaven," she said.

Gamble doesn't have any confidence in the credibility of the grant recipients. She said it appears as if anyone could have walked off the street and said, "I like charter schools," and gotten a check.

And she is frustrated that she asked Englebrick and Education Commissioner Bob Corkins last month for copies of the applications for everyone who received grants, but has yet to receive them.

Corkins was appointed by the current anti-evolution Board of Education. Many of those radical incumbents are up for election on Nov. 7.

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