Back when the economic recovery act was first put into place, Gov. Rick Perry (R-TX) rejected $555 million in extended unemployment benefits, saying “we do not need any more strings from Washington attached to programs.”
Now, Perry has also decided that he won’t be applying for any of the Race to the Top funding available in the stimulus, which could bring Texas $700 million to implement education reforms. Points on the Race to the Top application are awarded for accepting the National Governors Association’s effort to adopt common national standards, which, despite originating in the states, Perry said “smacks of a federal takeover of public schools.” Perry added that he doesn’t want to put Texas’ education system in the hands of those “thousands of miles away”:
Texas is on the right path toward improved education, and we would be foolish and irresponsible to place our children’s future in the hands of unelected bureaucrats and special interest groups thousands of miles away in Washington, virtually eliminating parents’ participation in their children’s education.
Perry’s railing against a “takeover” from “thousands of miles away” is pretty remarkable, considering that his state is trying to lead a conservative takeover of the nation’s textbooks. The conservative-dominated Texas State Board of Education is pushing changes to textbooks that would emphasize conservative figures like Newt Gingrich and Phyllis Schlafly, “downplay the contributions of the civil rights movement,” challenge the science of evolution, “play up clashes with Islamic cultures,” and even attempt to rehabilitate Joe McCarthy.
And as the Washington Monthly’s Mariah Blake pointed out, “when it comes to textbooks, what happens in Texas rarely stays in Texas”:
The reasons for this are economic: Texas is the nation’s second-largest textbook market and one of the few biggies where the state picks what books schools can buy rather than leaving it up to the whims of local districts, which means publishers that get their books approved can count on millions of dollars in sales. As a result, the Lone Star State has outsized influence over the reading material used in classrooms nationwide, since publishers craft their standard textbooks based on the specs of the biggest buyers. As one senior industry executive told me, “Publishers will do whatever it takes to get on the Texas list.”
Perry has continually appointed members of the conservative bloc to head the Board of Education, who will potentially play a big role in what students thousands of miles away read in their textbooks. So who, exactly, is pushing a “takeover” onto whom?