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:
- Texas was eligible for up to $700 million in federal education dollars, if we submitted a "Race to the Top" application
- The Texas Education Agency spent between 700-800 hours preparing the application
- 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
- 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."