Rick Perry Rejects Texas' Chance at $700 Million in Public School Funding

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Key Point: Rick Perry is putting a very narrow and extreme partisan Republican primary agenda ahead of the best interests of 4.8 million Texas schoolchildren.

The facts of this story:

  1. Texas was eligible for up to $700 million in federal education dollars, if we submitted a “Race to the Top” application
  2. The Texas Education Agency spent between 700-800 hours preparing the application
  3. Perry has refused to send the application, as officials have said the $700 million would be “too little money” — despite the fact that over 200 local school districts have had to raise taxes in order to pay for the structural deficit created by Perry and Dewhurst in 2006
  4. Refusing to send the application nullifies Texas' ability to compete for other grants

Today, Rick Perry will announce that he will not approve the Texas Education Agency's request to seek up to $700 million in federal education dollars. The Statesman's Kate Alexander originally reported last night:

Many states have been going to great lengths to improve their chance at winning some of the grant money. Not Texas.

Both Perry and Education Commissioner Robert Scott have harshly criticized the program’s rules, and Scott suggested that one provision was a harbinger of a federal takeover of public schools.

Scott, reached Tuesday evening, rebuffed a question about the grant application and quickly ended the call. A Perry spokeswoman did not respond to an e-mail request for comment on the decision Tuesday.

The governor’s justification for not competing is that too little money is on the table to implement significant reform in a state with 4.7 million students, the officials said.

$700 million is too little money? Due to the failed leadership of Rick Perry, David Dewhurst, and Texas Republicans in the Legislature, Texas is facing a $14 billion hole next session. Our sales tax receipts are down by over $1 billion, too — and the DMN tells us why::

A 2006 tax package isn't providing enough money to fund the state's contribution to local school property tax cuts, creating a “structural deficit” that has officials nervous.

Before Perry announced his rejection of the funds, State Representative Garnet Coleman — who serves as the vice chair of the Select Committee on Federal Legislation, and serves on the Select Committee on Federal Economic Stabilization Funding — urged the Governor to accept the funds yesterday in a letter he wrote before Perry annoucned his decision (download a PDF of the letter here):

“While I disagree with some of the policy stances, they are but two of the many ways to receive points in the scoring matrix.  I believe you may take issue with some of the policy provisions that can receive points.  However, it is important to note that they are not all needed to receive possible grant funds.  Submitting the application for Race to the Top Funds will allow our state to compete with other states for grants.  Race to the Top is not like unemployment insurance stimulus funds, which you turned down because of possible “strings attached”.  This is a competitive program where states that do better will receive larger allocations.

The competition part is key — there are no “strings attached” to this application process, as Coleman said. Last week the Houston Chronicle reported that the Texas Education Agency spent between 700 and 800 hours preparing an application that took Perry less than a day to reject..

Representative Coleman released the following statement, upon learning of Perry's decision to reject sending the application for political purposes:

“It's shocking that Governor Perry doesn't even want to let Texas compete with other states for Race to the Top funds.  His argument against applying boils down to the fact that he doesn't like the teacher that will grade his test.  This is an application that even awards points for his own pet policies – teacher incentive pay and charter school expansion.  He used $10 million in federal funds to create his own teacher incentive pay program in 2005, but he's willing to go back on his own principles in an effort to score political points.    

Maybe Governor Perry should take his own advice and not bother competing for reelection.  At least then Texas schoolchildren would have a fighting chance at a decent education.”


About Author

Phillip Martin

Currently the Research and Policy Director for Progress Texas and the Texas Research Institute, Phillip Martin writes occasional long-form pieces for BOR that promote focused analysis and insight into Texas politics. Born and raised in Austin, Phillip started working in politics in 2003 and started writing on BOR in the summer of 2005. Phillip has worked for the Texas Democratic Trust, the Texas Legislative Study Group, and now the Progress Texas family. He is a lifelong Houston Astros fan, a loyal Longhorn, and loves swimming at Barton Springs Pool.


  1. Race to the top? Race to the bottom!
    Not surprising.

    These days it seems the only thing Perry wants gov't to pay for is building an addition on to “his” house.

    I taught at UT for three years, and let me tell you, the future of Texas is in some perilous shape. I had students who were literally functionally illiterate, unable to perform basic tasks, and completely unprepared for college level work.

    It's appalling. The low level of reading comprehension and writing among some of these students–many of whom were in the top 5% of their class, to be admitted to this program–is shocking, and really makes me worry about the folks who can't even get 10%-ruled in to UT.

    This ideologically-driven policy of failure will have MASSIVE negative implications for Texas over the course of decades. If Perry is allowed to persist in destroying public schools, our state will suffer for generations to come.  

  3. nothing new here
    This is of a piece with his disastrous decision to refuse federal money for Texas' now-broke unemployment compensation fund. He is implying that these funds are tainted somehow or another simply because they would be coming to us from Washington. This ignores the fact that the money is, in a very real sense, returning to Texas. I guess he would prefer that the federal tax money that we as Texans pay should be sent to other states.

    His cynicism and shortsightedness are simply staggering.

  4. Beyond Rage
    Children are the future. Educated children mean a better future. Undereducated children are much more susceptible to Perry and his ilk, Right Wingnuts. It's perfectly understandable. Arrgghhh!!

  5. This is beyond the pale
    of everything cynical and destructive if not downright hateful to the people of Texas.  Perry put himself and his politics ahead of the people of Texas. Again. What does he want?  A third world state in which children are under-educated, most folks work at slave wage jobs and we end up with heartless hateful dictators as leaders?  Perry wants to implement a 2/3 majority in order to pass any tax increases.  Since Republicans hate taxes more than anything else, where is the money to support our schools and infra-structure going to come from?  

    For 13 years I worked as a volunteer in Houston's public schools.  Our schools need every cent they can get for crying out loud.  Classes are too big, teachers are overworked and underpaid and so many of Houston's public school children are on federally subsidized meal programs.  

    Texas Republicans blew off a federal contract in Sealy, Perry turns down federal unemployment benefits (that would not cost Texas a penny) for the jobless and now he blows off a potential $700 million that could have enriched the educational quality of our schools.

    Who the hell is Perry working for?  Because it sure as hell isn't us.

  6. I thought the TDP response was too tepid
    I can only hope that our Democratic candidates for state legislature (and governor, of course) will present a unified front on improving education for Texas schoolchildren, because it's been made all too clear that the current regime in Austin isn't going to do a damn thing to make our kids inquisitive, capable of critical thought, and competitive in today's economic market.

    • Agree. A sledge hammer is in order
      here.  The only language these dolts understand is precisely that delivered with a sledge hammer.


  7. A Crying Shame
    $700 million is a lot of money.

    In a career of shameful actions, this one has to rank high on the list.  Gov. Perry is making a big mistake, one I hope he will come to rue.

    • This act…
      hurts SO MANY TEXANS. And it hurts the neediest among us, who most need decent K-12 public education. Folks who can't afford college, who need some training and education to be able to contribute to the workforce. Folks who have NO OTHER OPTION other than public schools.

      It's shameful.

  8. TDP response was fine
    TDP comment was brief, on point and quotable – about getting into the story today. It challenged Perry's “Texan” profile, and that is his game. Sometimes the quick hit is needed, but that was just the beginning of what we can do on the education issue.

    The most damning thing about Perry's latest theatrics is that the “one size fits all” agenda Perry complained about regarding the Race to the Top program is pure hypocrisy designed to veil his shortchanging our local schools. For a decade at the state level, he has promoted a “one size fits all” agenda in the form of state mandated merit pay and education funding tied to more standardized tests, while drying up state dollars for education. His hypocrisy knows no limits when it comes to primary politics, but we can turn that against him in November.

  9. texas_democrat_06 on

    Not enough money
    is a poor excuse for not excepting the education money….Particularly coming from someone who represents a mindset that strongly argues that a person/community/society can accomplish a whole lot with just a little bit of nothing…….and succeed.

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