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Out of the One Race, Still in the Game

Texas won't be applying for Race to the Top, but that's not stopping us from taking other education stimulus.
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Over at the Texas Tribune, Reeve Hamilton has the latest update on Texas’ application for the Department of Education’s Race to the Top grants. Which is to say, we’re still not willing to apply for education stimulus money—at least not in the case of the big money. However I noticed that for less politically-charged education grants, it’s a different story.

You may remember, if you’re an education nerd, Education Commissioner Robert Scott declined to compete for the first round of (one-time) competitive grants that the U.S. Department of Education was offering in January. Today Perry announced we also won’t be applying for Round 2. (Applications were due today.) Texas was eligible to receive between $350 million and $700 million.

The reasons are the same. Gov. Rick Perry and Scott both criticized the competition for assigning extra points for states that signed onto the initiative for a national curriculum. Texas would lose 70 points out of a possible 500 for not participating. Of course, that didn’t preclude a win, and TEA spent around 800 hours on the application before they scrapped it.

“Texas’ application would be penalized by the U.S. Department of Education for refusing to commit to adopting national curriculum standards and tests or incurring related ongoing costs,” read today’s release from the Governor’s Office. Both Perry and Scott also emphasized just how small the grants are—$700 million is a drop in the bucket for a education budget well over $40 billion.

The decision worked politically, particularly in the first round. Forty states ultimately applied for grants, but only two—Delaware and Tennessee—got any funds. Perry looked smart for forgoing the process and sticking to his anti-stimulus guns. Having only given out $600 million in Round One, the Department of Education has $3.4 billion to dole out on the Round Two winners, all to be announced in September. (As a few savvy observers have noted, September wouldn’t be the best time politically for Perry to receive a rejection, if he had applied.)

Despite the loss in points from not signing on to national standards, Texas was still eligible to apply, but Perry stood firm today, saying this is another example of the federal government “trying to coerce states like Texas.”

Oh, and there’s one other thing: On Friday, TEA sent out a press release. It just got an $18.2 million grant improving student data management system. It may not be a lot of money, but guess where it’s from: the federal government’s stimulus funds.