Governor’s Ploy Triggers Rejection of State Application for Education-Jobs Funding–Not the Last Word

Perry’s Ploy Triggers Rejection of State’s Education-Jobs Funding Application, For Now: Today we learned that the U.S. Department of Education has turned down Gov. Rick Perry’s September 3 application for $830 million in federal job-saving aid, because of conditions he placed on the request. This rejection is not the last word on the subject. But it means at least a delay–in our view an utterly needless delay–in the delivery of much-needed funding to our schools, which would help avert layoffs and damaging cutbacks in educational services.

The feds have insisted on receiving assurances of sustained state education funding in order to avoid a scenario where the federal dollars are just used as an excuse to cut back the state’s own funding efforts, leaving schools no better off. That’s pretty much what happened with $3.2 billion of the federal education funding that came to Texas last year, thanks to Perry and his allies in the legislature.

Apparently it wasn’t enough for Gov. Perry to preface his application for the $830 million with a discourse on the limits of his executive power to make any binding assurances of future state education-funding effort. He also felt compelled to alter the wording of the official application form provided by the U.S. Department of Education–instead of saying Texas “will comply,” the application said the state “will prioritize” education spending in future years. Thanks to those weasel words, the $830 million will stay in Washington, D.C., for the time being. Meanwhile, at least 21 other states already have had their applications approved and their share of the money is going to work as intended to save education jobs and services.

As a result of Gov. Perry’s ploy, the Department of Education rejection letter said “we cannot award Ed Jobs funds to Texas at this time.” However, the letter also cited conversations with Texas Commissioner of Education Robert Scott and other state officials that indicated “the State envisions submitting an application at a later date that does not contain conditional assurances.” The reference there may be to Perry’s suggestion that the legislature, which will convene again in January, could take budget action allowing the necessary assurances to be made.

Punting this issue to the 2011 legislature may be an appealing option to a governor running for re-election on an anti-Washington platform. But the state’s budget-squeezed public schools can ill afford the luxury of additional months of gubernatorial shadow-boxing just to score a political point. Upcoming Hotline messages will report further on this issue and offer a new chance for you to let the governor–and your representatives in the legislature–hear from you about it.