Will $830 Million in Job-Saving Federal Aid Reach Texas? Help Make It Happen

Today state officials reportedly have been meeting in the nation’s capital with the U.S. Department of Education in a bid to secure $830 million earmarked for financially hard-pressed Texas school districts. Texas Gov. Rick Perry has until September 9 to apply for the aid under the Education Jobs Fund program enacted August 10.

Gov. Perry and his legislative allies have complained that the federal law demands assurances of continued state financial aid for school districts as a condition of receiving the federal money. They also have complained that one Texas-specific provision requires them to distribute the funds among school districts based on the number of economically disadvantaged students enrolled.

But for the last couple of weeks Perry and the folks at the Texas Education Agency have been talking as if a way still could be found for Perry to request–and for the U.S. Department of Education to hand over–the money. A similar message is conveyed in an August 26 letter (published today by the Austin-based Quorum Report, an online newsletter on state political and legislative affairs) to Secretary of Education Arne Duncan from Lt. Gov. David Dewhurst and House Speaker Joe Straus, the presiding officers of the Texas legislature. Amidst a couple of pages of legalistic complaints about the purported unfairness of the federally required assurances and distribution formula applied to Texas, Dewhurst and Straus eventually get down to the point–they ask for the Department to establish “flexible guidelines that allow Texas to spend the money….”

The shift in tone toward finding a way to secure the money for Texas school districts is an improvement, which we suspect is traceable in good part to the pressure these state officials are feeling from grass-roots educators like you. So keep it up!

If you haven’t sent your e-mail on this issue to the governor, do it now, by clicking on the “No Excuses, Governor” link to our e-mail letter campaign on the Texas AFT Web site, www.texasaft.org. If you have done your bit by sending that e-mail, then please do a little more–call the governor on his toll-free number, 1-800-843-5789. Urge him to show some flexibility himself and apply for the federal help without further delay!