When Congress approved a $10 billion education jobs bill last year aimed at preserving the jobs of teachers and other public school employees, it included a clause requiring Texas to maintain its current education funding if it wanted to access its share of the money. The justification for including this provision was good: Texas Gov. Rick Perry (R) took education funding in the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act, but then “simultaneously slashed the state’s contributions to the education budget, allowing the state to essentially pocket the federal dollars without increasing school aid.”
Perry did not take the restriction in the education jobs bill well, 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.” Texas is now suing the Department of Education to release the funds, while Perry’s chief of staff said that the state will “look for ways around” actually spending the money on education.
But if House Republicans get their way, Perry won’t need to work any harder to secure his share of the money, which stands at $830 million. A rider included in H.R. 1 — the House Republican spending plan for the remainder of 2011 — would prohibit the Education Department from enforcing the restrictions placed into the education jobs bill:
Sec. 4051: Prohibits funds for implementing a provision specific to the State of Texas in the “Education Job Fund.”
This would be a convenient windfall for Perry, who is currently grappling with a $27 billion budget hole. But according to the office of Rep. Lloyd Doggett (D-TX) — who spearheaded the restrictions in the education jobs bill — the practical upshot of the rider wouldn’t be to give Perry the $830 million to with as he pleases, but to simply deny Texas from ever accessing any of the education jobs funding:
Defectively written, this amendment fails to repeal anything. The enforcement funds that it would limit are not in this bill. They are already appropriated…Though this is presented as an attempt to repeal our amendment, it does not repeal it. It is a meaningless gesture, though it does cloud up the possibility that some federal court may suggest that Texas is not entitled to any money.
There are plenty of riders attached to H.R. 1 that would increase federal spending, even as Republicans use the deficit as justification to cut scores of vital and popular programs. But this particular provision is an attempt to force the federal government into throwing money to Perry without any oversight, when his past actions show that such oversight is sorely needed.