House Democrats representing Texas decided Thursday against trying to change a law enacted in August requiring the state to keep specific education funding levels in order to receive $830 million from a federal fund to help local school districts prevent teacher layoffs.
Earlier Thursday, Texas officials sued the Education Department, which had rejected their application for the money. The suit claims that the funding provision is unconstitutional because the Education Department “misinterpreted the … amendment or the amendment itself places unconstitutional conditions on Texas,” the state said in a release.
But Rep. Lloyd Doggett, D-Texas, said he believes the argument “over the Constitution is totally phony.”
Doggett and all Democrats of the state delegation met in the office of House Appropriations Chairman David Obey to decide if further legislative action would be needed.
“We discussed whether we should do anything to try to remove that argument and concluded that we are going to stand by the school children and keep it just like it is,” Doggett said upon leaving the meeting.
Rep. Gene Green, D-Texas, said the state’s move to sue the federal government amounted to nothing more than political “grandstanding” by Texas Gov. Rick Perry, a Republican running for re-election.
Democrats, led by Doggett, had pushed for the provision in the $26 billion bill that increased Medicaid funding for states because they contend that state Republican leaders last year redirected $3.25 billion in federal stimulus funds intended for local school districts.
“In ‘09 the money did not get to the local school districts,” said Green. “My school districts are having to do tax referendums to get money and in this economy you can’t pass them, so that money needs to go directly to the school districts.”
Perry, in a release, called Doggett’s provision “anti-Texas.”
“Texas taxpayers are footing the bill for the education jobs fund, and Texas’ hardworking teachers deserve their share of that money,” Perry said. “Had the congressional majority chosen to work for Texas schoolchildren and teachers, instead of playing partisan politics, this money could already be on its way to our school districts.”
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