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Foe of Race to Top Takes to New Pulpit

By Sean Cavanagh — November 30, 2010 1 min read
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Texas Gov. Rick Perry, who once said that the federal Race to the Top competition would undermine “states’ authority to determine how their students are educated,” has a new platform: chairmanship of the Republican Governors Association.

Mr. Perry, who won re-election last month, is one of the most strident critics of federal economic-stimulus spending—even though his state has accepted billions of that aid.

Race to the Top, a $4.35 billion competitive state grant program, was funded through the stimulus. Gov. Perry refused to have Texas take part, saying the Obama administration was attempting to “bait states into adopting national standards,” a charge rejected by the program’s backers.

It’s unclear whether Mr. Perry’s governors’ association position—he replaces Mississippi Gov. Haley Barbour—will stir GOP antagonism toward Race to the Top, or common state standards and assessments, which the program also supports. The competition prodded states nationwide to adopt policies that appeal to conservatives, on merit pay, charter schools, and other areas.

Eleven states, plus the District of Columbia, were named winners in the competition. Some, including Florida, Georgia, and Ohio, have elected new GOP governors; their states stand to receive multimillion-dollar awards if they uphold their plans—or lose that money, if they stray from them.

Mr. Perry’s federal feud extends to the Education Jobs Fund, an emergency measure approved by Congress this summer that provided $10 billion to help prevent layoffs. Texas has not been allowed to receive its $830 million share of aid because the law requires that states pledge to maintain K-12 funding. Gov. Perry is backing a lawsuit to secure Texas’ portion of the money.

Since he was named chairman Nov. 18, Mr. Perry has also taken issue with the federal policies of fellow Texan and former President George W. Bush, who signed into law the No Child Left Behind Act. That federal law set mandates for school and student performance.

I don’t agree that Washington, D.C., should be the epicenter of things like health care or education, he told Fox News, when asked about his criticism of Mr. Bush. I think it needs to be devolved back to the states.

A version of this article appeared in the December 01, 2010 edition of Education Week as Foe of Race to Top Takes to New Pulpit

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