Gov. Rick Perry (R-TX) made a big show a few months ago of refusing to apply for the Obama administration’s Race to the Top Program, which provides competitive grants to states for implementing education reforms. Perry falsely claimed that it was some sort of nationalization of the education system, saying “this administration’s attempt to bait states into adopting national standards is an effort to undermine states’ authority to determine how their students are educated.”
Since then, however, Perry has made it very clear that he’s happy to accept federal education funding, so long as he can use it however he likes. Case in point, the state aid bill that passed yesterday includes $10 billion in money to prevent teacher layoffs — including $800 million for Texas — but comes with the stipulation that Texas must commit to maintaining its current level of education funding in order to qualify for the additional money.
The reason for making the grant conditional was good, as Texas pocketed the education money that it received from the Recovery Act (i.e. the stimulus package), but then cut its education budget by the same amount and put the money into a Rainy Day Fund, so there was no additional money for schools. “We didn’t send that federal aid for education to Texas to plug a mismanaged state budget. We sent it to help our schoolchildren,” said Rep. Lloyd Doggett (D-TX).
Perry, however, is not taking the conditions imposed very well:
It is unfortunate that Washington continues to play partisan games with Texans’ tax dollars and the very future of our children. Texas will not surrender to Washington’s one-size-fits-all, deficit-spending mindset or let Washington do to the Texas budget what they have done to the federal budget. We’ll continue to work with state leaders, including the attorney general, to fight this injustice.
So Perry is going to fight Washington’s “deficit-spending mindset” by advocating that Washington give money to the states with no regard for how it’s going to be used?
Leaving aside the legal arguments, Perry’s essentially saying that he should be given a slush fund from the federal government, and that Congress should allow money meant to save nearly 13,400 jobs in the Texas education system to be shuffled around to wherever he deems appropriate. In a signal of how fed up the Texas education establishment is with Perry, the conditions placed on the money were “endorsed by the Texas Association of School Boards and other statewide educator groups.”
When he initially made hay of rejecting stimulus money for extended unemployment benefits, Perry said, “we can take care of ourselves. And we do not need any more strings from Washington attached to programs.” I think we can now safely interpret that as meaning he wants the money, but to use however he’d like.