Ye Olde Battle between states’ rights and the federal government’s big foot is heating up again in Texas.
This time, Democrats in the U.S. House of Representatives are playing hardball with Texas Gov. Rick Perry, a Republican, who they have accused of taking billions in federal stimulus dollars meant for public schools and refusing to spend it on hiring in school districts.
In an amendment to the $10 billion edujobs bill that was approved by the House late last week, some Texas Democrats attached a measure that would single out the Lone Star State by requiring that the roughly $820 million that the state would be eligible for go directly to school districts. The effort is aimed at getting around Gov. Perry’s office, though, in order for the districts to receive the money, the governor would have to “certify” that the federal funds would not supplant any state money. Texas’ receipt of the money would also be conditional on the governor promising not to proportionally cut public schools more than any other sector in the next budget cycle.
Perry’s office has been fuming and said any attempt by Washington to dictate how Texas devises a budget would be “unconstitutional.” The U.S. Senate still must vote on the larger measure, which includes the Texas provision.
Remember that Perry, a staunch preacher of states’ rights, has twice refused to participate in the Obama administration’s $4 billion Race to the Top sweepstakes, saying it amounted to too much federal intrusion in a state matter.
This latest dust-up is playing out as Perry pursues re-election. His main challenger—former Houston Mayor Bill White, a Democrat—has been sharply critical of the governor’s education policies, particularly Texas’ high school dropout numbers.
A version of this news article first appeared in the State EdWatch blog.