Texas Gov. Attacks Obama Plan for Grants to Schools
Gov. Rick Perry lashed out Tuesday at a plan by President Barack Obama that would effectively let local Texas school districts circumvent the state's decision to not compete for millions in education reform dollars.
Obama singled out Texas on Tuesday while outlining a proposed $1.35 billion expansion of the "Race to the Top" education grant program, which Perry has denounced as a federal takeover of public schools. The program is currently only available to states, but Obama's proposal would let local school districts compete directly for funding down the road.
"Innovative districts like the one in Texas whose reform efforts are being stymied by state decision-makers will soon have the chance to earn funding to help them pursue those reforms," said Obama, speaking at a Virginia elementary school.
Perry pounced on that comment later in San Antonio.
"If you need any evidence that the federal government is bound and determined to intrude even farther into state affairs, look no farther than today's news," he said.
Perry went on to call the proposal "further interfering in state and local affairs" and said it shows the Obama administration's "clear disdain for our rights."
Texas has been among the most visible opponents of "Race to the Top" since Perry made his decision last week to not compete for up to $700 million in grants. Texas Democrats have criticized the move, and some school districts have expressed regret over Perry passing up the money.
The deadline to apply for the program was Tuesday.
Officials expect more than 30 states to apply, and the Education Department is expected to announce its first of two rounds of grants in April. The $4.3 billion in competitive grants is part of the economic stimulus plan.
State Education Commissioner Robert Scott joined Perry in San Antonio, where they unveiled a proposal that would make it easier for high school dropouts to take classes online and obtain their diplomas.
Scott said there are no barriers that would prohibit Texas school districts from directly competing for or taking federal money. But he cautioned against school districts going that route.
For one thing, Scott said, schools would have to create curriculums that met both state and federal standards.
"When they look at the application I looked at, and realize that for a one-time cash payment they're going to hand their district over to the federal government, I think they'll take a second guess," Scott said.
Perry has been critical of the federal stimulus program and previous turned down $555 million for the state's unemployment fund because it would have required Texas to expand unemployment benefits. However, the state did accept billions in federal stimulus money to help balance its two-year budget in 2009.