By Ken Paxton, State Representative
Last week, the United States House of Representatives passed the supplemental appropriations bill (H.R. 4899). While the American public has become accustomed to Congress adding unrelated riders and pork spending to federal bills, Texans may be surprised to learn that congressional members added an amendment that specifically targets Texas by making particular demands on our State while simultaneously circumventing our State’s process for funding public education.
Through this amendment, Congress is trying to bypass our State’s authority for setting our own education standards by offering money directly to school districts to hire additional employees. However, there is a catch. In order for school districts to receive this money, Governor Perry would have to guarantee that the Legislature would appropriate school funding that would equal or exceed current funding for the next three fiscal years (through 2013).
Not only is this amendment an attempt to infringe on our State’s right to set our own education standards, but it also makes demands that violate the Texas Constitution. Texas governors do not have the authority to set appropriations in our State’s budget, nor do they have the authority to require the Legislature to allocate appropriations in future budgets for specific State programs.
Governor Rick Perry has twice rejected federal funds to participate in Administration Race to the Top program. This program is designed to provide funding to states that adopt national education standards. Rather than adopting federal standards, Texas Education Commissioner Robert Scott, members of our State Board of Education and other education leaders in our State have spent the last four years rewriting standards for core subjects, including English, Language Arts, Reading, Science and Social Studies, to improve the quality of education for our students in Texas.
Our State continues to lead the country in economic prosperity and job growth while declining offers for federal stimulus dollars with strings attached. However, Congress is demonstrating its thirst for power by this effort to bypass our State’s authority. The U.S. Senate will consider H.R. 4899 next week. Hopefully, Senators will strip this amendment from the bill and show appropriate respect for our State’s Constitution and authority to set our own education standards.
Ken Paxton represents McKinney, Allen and Collin County.