u.S. House: Cash is for education, education alone
Democrat-led move is latest in federal, state disagreements
In yet another skirmish in the Texas versus Washington debates, Democrats have pushed legislation through the U.S. House requiring Texas to spend federal education dollars on education.
The provision, written by Rep. Lloyd Doggett of Austin, singles out Texas and was placed into a supplemental appropriations bill that pays for education, war efforts, border security, Pell Grants and other programs. The House passed the bill late Thursday.
Doggett and the 11 other Texas Democrats in the House have been pushing the provision they say will help keep teachers in the classrooms. The Democrats said in a statement that they added language into the appropriations bill to prevent the “state-diversion of $820 million in emergency education jobs funds elsewhere for noneducational use.”
Doggett said he wrote the provision to prevent history from repeating itself.
Last year, a piece of legislation directed $3.2 billion in economic stimulus money for Texas schools. But congressional Democrats complained at the time that the state misused its stimulus money by filling its budget holes
Continued from B1 with the federal dollars.
“So the schools didn’t come out any better,” Doggett said.
The effort by the Democrats this week “effectively kills about $800 million in federal funding for Texas schools,” said Katherine Cesinger, a spokeswoman for Gov. Rick Perry.
Cesinger said Perry opposes Doggett’s measure because it would demand the governor to guarantee that the Legislature will provide a level of state funding, which she says he cannot do by law.
She added that the provision written by Doggett also would not allow Texas to use any of any of the money for at least one full school year because “it will be at least June 1, 2011, before the Legislature passes and the comptroller certifies the 2012-13 budget.”
Senators still have to take up the measure when they return to Washington in two weeks, and Perry is urging them to reject the Doggett proposal.
Doggett said he believes Republican Sens. Kay Bailey Hutchison and John Cornyn of Texas won’t support his language.
“I don’t expect them to be sympathetic to this,” he said.
But even if the Senate passes the Doggett-drafted language, President Barack Obama still would have to sign it into law — and that’s not a foregone conclusion.
Doggett said a veto issue has been raised because Obama might not want money — about $500 million — to be diverted from one of his pet projects, Race to the Top, an education grant program that seeks to reward innovation.
Before the Texas and Washington politicians began Friday’s public disagreement, 33 school superintendents — including those from the Austin, Hays County and San Marcos districts — signed a letter to Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., and others supporting Doggett’s language.
The letter said: “As the Administration considers additional emergency education funding to save teachers’ jobs, we urge you to prevent history from repeating itself and ensure that any funds Texas receives go to help Texas schools, teachers, and students.”
In recent weeks, Texas and federal officials also have been at odds over federal health care reform legislation, air quality rules and food stamp processing.