In March of last year, as Texas’ unemployment rate crept to 6.7% (pdf), Governor (and hater of Texans) Rick Perry (R) publicly rejected his state’s $555 billion share of federal unemployment assistance from the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act. Unemployment in his state now hovers at 8% (pdf).
This year, Perry is back for Round Two:
Texas won’t compete for up to $700 million in federal stimulus money for education because the program “smacks of a federal takeover of our public schools,” Republican Gov. Rick Perry said Wednesday.
The funding is from the U.S. Department of Education’s “Race to the Top” program, a $5 billion competitive fund that will award grants to states to improve education quality and results. The program, created in the economic stimulus law, is part of Democratic President Barack Obama’s efforts to overhaul the nation’s schools.
Uh, Texas has a projected budget shortfall of $3.5 billion. The states are broke, and education non-profits are as strapped for cash as anyone else these days. Unlike other states large (pdf) and small, Texas managed to avoid drastic funding cuts to its public schools and colleges, having boosted education spending by $4 billion for the current fiscal year, thanks to federal stimulus money.
But now? Oh, right — Governor Perry is running for reelection in a bloody red state, against this woman. Got it. So now Perry is convinced that the Race To The Top challenge’s modest incentives toward common student and teacher assessment standards — 50 points of a 500-point scoring rubric — amount, or will amount, to a consolidation of America’s school districts under President Obama’s iron bureaucracy. Meanwhile, saner state leaders — Democrats and Republicans in New York, California, Alabama, Tennessee, pretty much everywhere but Texas — are angling to make their school systems competitive in the face of chronic state budget shortfalls and ever-imminent cuts to education spending.
Phase II applications for Race to the Top grants are due in June 2010 — that’s the final deadline. Texas schools stand to win $700 million. They sure could use a saner governor right now.