Sanders: U.S. Education Dept. Must Cooperate with Vermont

WASHINGTON, June 6 - Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) today told U.S. Education Secretary Arne Duncan that it is unacceptable to exclude Vermont and many other rural states from a major federal grant program.

"It is unacceptable that nearly $5 billion of federal "Race to the Top" funding has been distributed while Vermont and many other states have not received a penny," Sanders said after meeting with Duncan in the senator's office on Capitol Hill.

Overall, more than half of all states have not received "Race to the Top" funds. Many rural states, some with high poverty rates, are among the states that received nothing. Vermont, for example, was turned down last November for a four-year, $50 million grant for early-childhood education.

Noting that Vermont public schools are among the best in the country, Sanders said he would "do my best to change this arbitrary funding system, which favors some states at the expense of others."

Sanders also said he was pleased to hear from Duncan that there will be a special "carve out" for rural states in a new, $350 million round of funding for "Race to the Top."

Also during the meeting, the senator said he was "extremely disappointed" that Vermont could not obtain a waiver from the "No Child Left Behind" law. He said requirements of the Bush-era law are "fundamentally incompatible with the state's education model." Sanders said he was delighted that Secretary Duncan promised to personally discuss the waiver issue with Vermont education officials to explore how a resolution could be reached.

In Vermont, Sanders added, "there is widespread - near unanimous - opposition" to the law's inflexible mandates.