When Congress approved $10 billion in funding for states to preserve education jobs earlier this month, it included the requirement that Texas maintain its current education funding for the next few years if it wants to claim its share of the money. The justification for the move was solid: when the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act first passed, Gov. Rick Perry (R-TX) took the education funding, but then cut Texas’ education budget and shoved the money he saved into the state’s rainy day fund.
Perry reacted to Congress’ requirement — added at the behest of Rep. Lloyd Doggett (D-TX) — by petulantly saying, “Texas will not surrender to Washington’s one-size-fits-all, deficit-spending mindset…We’ll continue to work with state leaders, including the attorney general, to fight this injustice.” And evidently fighting the injustice amounts to gladly accepting the money, while looking for ways to circumvent the requirement that he use it as Congress intended:
Texas will apply for about $830 million in education aid from Washington, but state officials, making a push Friday to get the money to their schools, expect a legal fight…Perry Chief of Staff Ray Sullivan told the Austin American-Statesman that they’ll look for ways around the requirement that the Texas governor assure that the state would maintain a level of education spending for the next three years.
Sullivan added, “I’m not optimistic that we will be able to overcome Congressman Doggett’s anti-Texas provisions.” Of course, Perry has played this game before, right after the Recovery Act passed, only to accept the funds in the end.
I’d argue that Doggett did the right thing by ensuring that federal education dollars actually end up in Texas classrooms, and not stowed away in a fund to paper over some of Texas’ other fiscal problems. And Texas’ education establishment is behind Doggett, as the Texas Association of School Boards and other state education groups endorsed his provision.
“You can be sure that Texas is singled out by this legislation — it was singled out by the Governor who grabbed $3.2 billion of federal aid to education to bailout a mismanaged state government,” Doggett said. “We didn’t send that federal aid for education to Texas to plug a mismanaged state budget; we sent it to help our schoolchildren.”
And Perry, for his part, seems to be endorsing the notion that the federal government should send money to states without any oversight whatsoever, which seems to be completely at odds with his professed concern regarding federal spending. Of course, this is coming from the same governor who continually touts his successfully balanced budget, without noting that it was only balanced because of funds provided by the Recovery Act.