Gov. Rick Perry (R-TX) has repeatedly attempted to burnish his anti-federal government credentials in the last few years, first by grandstanding against the economic recovery package (i.e. the stimulus) and then by refusing to participate in the Obama administration’s Race to the Top program — which provides grants to states that implement education reform — labeling it “an effort to undermine states’ authority to determine how their students are educated.”
Perry’s public stance on the stimulus has already been exposed as pure bluster, as his state was only able to balance its budget due to money provided by the recovery act. And Perry’s no more consistent on education funding, as he now seems very concerned about a step taken by the House of Representatives that he claims endangers some federal funding for Texas:
“At the urging of Texas Democrats, the U.S. House has added language to the war supplemental bill that effectively kills about $800 million in federal funding for Texas schools,” said Perry spokeswoman Katherine Cesinger. “The House-passed version requires that the governor guarantee the Legislature will provide a certain level of state funding, which is prohibited by the Texas Constitution. Texas would not be able to use any of these funds to save teacher jobs — as Congress has intended the money be used — for at least one full school year.”
Texas’ Education Commissioner Robert Scott claimed that the House’s move was meant as retribution for Perry’s refusal to participate in Race to the Top. “I think they’ve certainly painted a target on Texas for our refusal to turn over our schools to the federal government,” he said.
The language in question was placed into the bill by Rep. Lloyd Doggett (D-TX) and requires Texas to maintain its current level of education funding if it wants to receive additional federal dollars to prevent teacher layoffs. Doggett introduced the measure after Perry received stimulus money for education, but “simultaneously slashed the state’s contributions to the education budget, allowing the state to essentially pocket the federal dollars without increasing school aid.” The money saved was placed into Texas’ Rainy Day Fund, according to Doggett.
Even Texas’ school superintendents want to ensure that Perry doesn’t grab federal money with one hand while cutting the state’s contribution with the other, all the while fearmongering about the dangers of government intrusion. “The last thing we need to allow is these funds to be diverted,” 40 Texas superintendents wrote to congressional leaders. “We hope that you will ensure that Texas school districts do not fall through the cracks this time around.”