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Perry Versus School Boards

Governor punts blame for teacher layoffs

By Richard Whittaker, 5:00PM, Wed. Mar. 9, 2011

Gov. Perry: Just because he's cutting funds doesn't mean he's responsible for smaller budgets
Gov. Perry: Just because he's cutting funds doesn't mean he's responsible for smaller budgets

The problem with all the state's rights mumbo-jumbo being perpeterated is that it means states have to take responsibility for their mistakes. But, according to Gov. Rick Perry, you can't blame him for the massive teacher layoffs pending around the state.

The governor was out and about this morning backing House Concurrent Resolution 50, a slab of histrionic and history-rewriting Tenth Amendment dogma, when the issue of public education (and the state's constitutionally-mandated requirement to provide it) came up.

According to the Austin-American Statesman, Perry told reporters:

"The lieutenant governor, the speaker, their colleagues aren’t going to hire or fire one teacher, as best I can tell," Perry said. "That is a local decision that will be made at the local districts."

Say what now?

That statement has left the Texas Association of School Boards (and this is their official position) "baffled" as to how Perry thinks his budget-cutting works. Communications director Dax Gonzalez explained, "The governor says that legislators won’t personally fire any teacher, but that is essentially what will happen if legislative leaders fail to provide enough funding for districts to retain teachers."

In a way, what Perry says is technically true. Districts could wait until the budget is finished (hopefully) by the end of the session and bank on a better outcome. Or, as Education Austin has proposed, districts could take some control of their own finances by asking voters for a tax raise.

Unfortunately for Perry's argument, the state has always been a part of school finances, and jammed its fingers deeper in under his administration. As calculations by the Center for Public Policy Priorities show, the state's changes to the tax base in 2006 are directly responsible for a planned $10 billion drop in their contribution to schools. That's before factoring in the $2 billion cut from Texas Education Agency discretionary funds and $1 billion from the Foundation Schools Program. Gonzalez said, "Let there be no mistake, the decisions being made in school districts across the state regarding budget cuts and teacher layoffs are a direct result of the decisions that have been and are being made in the state capitol."

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