A lot has been happening on the education front lately at the state and federal level. Letís start with one of the most recent state-level updates.
According to a story from the Aug. 25 edition of the Houston Chronicle, the 11 Texas school districts that filed a lawsuit to prevent the state from dictating whether school districtís enforce a minimum grading policy or not and lost their battle in June have decided not to appeal State District Judge Gisela Triana-Doyalís ruling. Those 11 districts are: Aldine, Alief, Clear Creek, Deer Park, Dickinson, Fort Bend, Humble, Klein, Anahuac, Eanes and Livingston. In the story, an Alief school board member reports that the original lawsuit cost Alief about $15,000. I couldnít help but wonder about the technology and other educational materials Alief could have purchased with this money.
Thank goodness teacher-turned-Senator Jane Nelson didnít back down from her battle to make sure students get the grades they earn on assignments, tests and report cards. Shame on these districts and others throughout the state that were forcing teachers to give students grades they had not earned.
Now on to federal education news. In August, federal legislators passed a $10 billion jobs bill that would prevent the loss of 160,000 education jobs nationwide. Texasí share of that money is $830 million. But just as districts set to receive that money were preparing to take off with their plans on how to use the money, Gov. Perry applied the brakes. Perry, disgruntled that Congressman Lloyd Doggett (D-TX) added a Texas-specific requirement to the bill that forces the governor to sign a document stating he will not use these federal funds to replace state education funding through 2013, said he would be breaking the stateís constitution by doing so. Gov. Perry said the constitution does not allow him to bind future legislation. He also expressed anger over Texas being singled out. Rep. Doggett responded:
You can be sure Texas is singled out by this legislation ó it was singled out by a governor who grabbed $3.2 billion of federal aid to education to bail out a mismanaged state government ó thatís the bailout that occurred. It occurred last year in the State of Texas.
We didnít send that federal aid for education to Texas to plug a mismanaged state budget; we sent it to help our schoolchildren.
Today, in order to avoid history from repeating itself, we demand accountability, we demand support for quality public education and local control of education and not more mismanagement and interference from the State of Texas.
Weíve seen it happen at the local level and at the state level. At the local level, some districts receive state funding meant for educators or for specific educational programs, but instead use that money to replace local funding. At the state level, we have seen exactly what Rep. Doggett described. Federal money is given to the state for education, and the money is used to replace state funding that was supposed to have been spent on education. Itís crazy that this money maneuvering has been allowed while our schools continue to suffer from funding cuts.
Gov. Perry gave in to the pressure and gave the Texas Education Agency the green light to apply for the $830 million. It is uncertain if and when that money will be made available to Texas districts, but many are hoping it will be soon.
Once again, the celebration has been overshadowed by more dismal news. Two weeks ago, the TEA gave notice that it will ask our state legislators to cut more than $260 million, which amounts to another 10 percent cut in funding by 2013. More next week on where those cuts will be made. Here we go again. Weíre talking cuts our students canít afford for our state to make.
UPDATE: As this section of the Town Crier went to press, we learned that the federal government has denied the application due to the stipulation the governor put in saying he could not commit to the funding due to the Texas Constitution. Right now it looks like the government is going to allow Texas to re-apply for the money.
Chris Ardis is in her 27th year of teaching, 26 of those with McAllen ISD. Visit her web site at www.chrisardis.com for more education news and links to stories related to this article.