Sunday, December 13, 2009

Perry says Texas, not U.S., should set state public education standards

TERRENCE STUTZ | The Dallas Morning News
November 24, 2009

AUSTIN – Gov. Rick Perry still wants no part of a move to establish national standards for English and math instruction in public schools.

Perry issued a letter Tuesday – just as rival Kay Bailey Hutchison was announcing education policy proposals – to state Education Commissioner Robert Scott reiterating his opposition to federal standards.

Texas education officials, with Perry's backing, told the U.S. Department of Education in June that the state would not participate with most other states in developing the standards, spelling out what students at all grade levels should be taught in those subjects.

By doing so, Texas has severely hurt its chances of getting a piece of a $4.35 billion federal grant program for schools, known as "Race to the Top" funds. But Perry said in his letter that that's a price worth paying.

"The citizens of Texas, not the federal government, know what is best for our children," said Perry, who has hammered away at various federal programs as he runs for re-election next year.

Although Scott insists that Texas still has a chance of being awarded the estimated $350 million to $700 million that it's eligible for under Race to the Top, the decision to forgo national standards deprives the state of at least 40 of the 500 possible points that will be used in the application process.

Texas officials have also been at odds with the U.S. Department of Education over differing interpretations of what determines whether a teacher is "highly qualified" – a requirement of the federal No Child Left Behind Act. The department is pushing for more stringent standards.

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