Texas schools are facing painful budget cuts, but some relief appears to be on the way—courtesy of long-awaited federal “Edujobs” money.
The budget bill passed last week funding the federal government through September includes a provision that would end a political standoff in Texas and give the state access to its $830 million share of the federal Education Jobs Fund. That pool of emergency aid provided $10 billion, nationally, to help schools avoid layoffs.
The Edujobs law, as it is known, included a provision backed by Texas congressional Democrats and led by Rep. Lloyd Doggett meant to ensure that the federal money was used to supplement state spending on education—and not simply to replace state spending that had been cut.
Mr. Doggett said the provision was motivated by earlier actions by Texas’ Republican Gov. Rick Perry and the GOP-controlled legislature, who in the Democratic lawmaker’s view had used more than $3 billion in federal stimulus funds to fill holes in the state’s budget—not help schools. Mr. Doggett described those actions as “shenanigans,” which left the Texas’ schools “no better off than if we had done nothing.”
The Texas-specific provision, in turn, angered Mr. Perry—who blasted it as “anti-Texas”—as well as state legislators, who said the state’s constitution prevents them from making guarantees about future K-12 spending.
But the new federal budget deal removes the Lone Star language, allowing the state to access $830 million. Texas would appear to need any money it can get: The state faces a projected two-year budget shortfall of up to $27 billion, and school districts fear having to make as many as 65,000 layoffs.
Texas Lt. Gov. David Dewhurst, a Republican, praised the agreement. “Texans will also be pleased to know that our state will now be treated fairly,” he said.
But Rep. Doggett seemed skeptical that state officials would use the money in ways that benefit schools. If [the $830 million] simply replaces proposed state funding, then the concern of state educators, who sought our amendment, will be justified, he said in a statement.
A version of this article appeared in the April 20, 2011 edition of Education Week as Texas ‘Edujobs’ Aid Now Clear to Flow