I was impelled to read this article in the Houston Chronicle today because it has two red meat issues that I am watching: Texas’ Governor, Rick Perry and federal dollars being allocated to the states to prevent teachers from losing their jobs during this economic downturn.
Rick Perry has an opponent of significance this fall in Democratic nominee Bill White, you see, and school districts all around me are laying off teachers and slashing their budgets.
See, on Thursday the House passed a supplemental appropriations bill that funded lots of stuff including continued funding of the Afghanistan War, but it also included supplemental funding of $10 billion to help the states fund education and keep teachers in their jobs.
The last time this happened, Governor Perry accepted $3 billion in education funding from the feds, and put it in the education budget on one side, and subtracted $3 billion in state allocations to the education budget on the other side.
He essentially pocketed $3 billion dollars meant to improve state education and keep teachers in their jobs. Last year thousands of teachers across the state were laid off in district cutbacks. But instead of using those federal dollars as they were meant to be used, Perry used them to balance his overstretched budget.
So this bill had something in it that you don’t see every day. It had a special provision for a special state: Texas.
In order for Texas to get its share of the $10 billion, said to be around $820 million, Rick Perry has to promise to behave.
This is such a one off deal that I promised myself to get a copy of the text and check it out for myself. I finally found it and here it is pasted below:
11) ADDITIONAL REQUIREMENTS FOR THE STATE OF TEXAS.--The following requirements shall apply to the State of Texas:
(A) Notwithstanding paragraph (3)(B), funds used to support elementary and secondary education shall be distributed based on local educational agencies' relative shares of funds under part A of title I of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act of 1965 (20 U.S.C. 6311 et seq.) for the most recent fiscal year which data are available. Funds distributed pursuant to this paragraph shall be used to supplement and not supplant State formula funding that is distributed on a similar basis to part A of title I of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act of 1965 (20 U.S.C. 6311 et seq.).
(B) The Secretary shall not allocate funds to the State of Texas under paragraph (1) unless the Governor of the State provides an assurance to the Secretary that the State will for fiscal years 2011, 2012, and 2013 maintain State support for elementary and secondary education at a percentage of the total revenues available to the State that is equal to or greater than the percentage provided for such purpose for fiscal year 2011 prior to the enactment of this Act.
(C) Notwithstanding paragraph (8), no distribution shall be made to the State of Texas or local education agencies therein unless the Governor of Texas makes an assurance to the Secretary that the requirements in paragraphs (11)(A) and (11)(B) will be met, notwithstanding the lack of an application from the Governor of Texas.
See that? In the special case of Texas, the state governor doesn’t have to ask for the funds. School districts can go right around him and ask for them directly. And even then, the governor has to promise that state support in 2011 be at the same or greater level “prior to enactment” of the Act.
The bill passed by a vote of 239 Ayes (236 Democrats, 3 Republicans) and 182 Nays (167 Republicans and 15 Democrats). It now goes on to the Senate which previously passed this legislation but without the Texas amendment.
Perry, you might imagine, is livid. Politically it exposes him as the charlatan that he is, but having your state mentioned in the act in a special additional requirement because of poor previous behavior of its governor, in an election year no less, has got to sting a little.
As a matter of fact, Perry’s spokesperson turned it around and blamed Texas Democrats that he couldn’t accept the $800 million because the Texas constitution forbids it.
“The House-passed version requires that the governor guarantee the Legislature will provide a certain level of state funding, which is prohibited by the Texas Constitution, for education through fiscal year 2013.”
“It will be at least June 1, 2011, before the Legislature passes and the comptroller certifies the 2012-13 budget. That means Texas would not be able to use any of these funds to save teacher jobs — as Congress has intended the money be used - for at least one full school year.”
Funny, isn’t it, how Rick Perry had no trouble accepting $3 billion in federal dollars meant to save teaching jobs if it had no strings attached to it, but balks at accepting $820 million in federal dollars if he has to let the funds do what they were intended to do by Congress.
That is, if it helps Rick Perry, he as no problem taking federal bailouts. If it helps public school teachers Perry’s hands are mysteriously tied.