The Brief: January 13, 2010

Remember those kids who would do extra homework assignments — without turning them in? Apparently Gov. Rick Perry and Education Commissioner Robert Scott might have just such students.

THE BIG CONVERSATION:

Remember those kids who would do extra homework assignments — without turning them in? Apparently Gov. Rick Perry and Education Commissioner Robert Scott might have been just such students.

Texas won't be submitting its application for federal education grant program Race for the Top — or so Perry is expected to announce today.

The program has already incited accusations, from the Governor's Office and the Texas Education Agency, of a federal takeover of state education. While it offers up to $700 million in extra (albeit one-time) money, it also puts heavy emphasis on the priorities of the U.S. Department of Education, particularly the national standards movement for math and English.

Texas refused to sign onto the national standards initiative, worth 40 points in the Race’s application, and without those points, Texas never seemed to have much of a chance at getting the money. Justin Hamilton, spokesman for the U.S. Department of Education, said in November, "We’re gonna have a very small number of points that separate the winners from the losers here. Forty points could make the difference."

Scott and Perry have both been increasingly negative on the program in the last few months: Perry sent a hostile letter to the Education Department on national standards, while Scott, eager for wordplay, called the program “cash for flunkers.” And our Brian Thevenot pointed out that in comparison to Texas’ $40.2 billion education budget, $700 million isn’t quite as much as it first sounds.

But it's still a surprise. In early December, it was difficult to get to talk to anyone at TEA — the application process, I was repeatedly told, was demanding significant man-hours across the board.

The move offers a nice talking point for the Perry campaign one day before his first debate performance against Kay Bailey Hutchison and Debra Medina. 'Cause I have a feeling state sovereignty and national power will come up.

CULLED:

• Crossing lines? Republican gubernatorial candidates released their border plans. Perry is calling for 1,000 National Guardsmen to enhance security, while Hutchison demands employment eligibility verification and wants to allow retired law enforcement and military officials to help out on security efforts. Medina's plan includes some more interesting caveats — including the assertion she will "interpose, support nullification and declare unconstitutional all international treaties [like NAFTA] that violate Texas state sovereignty.” 
• Citizen legislatures have their advantages. The Speaker announced select committees yesterday, and matched his chairs with their professions.  Rep. John Zerwas, a surgeon, will chair the new Select Committee on Federal Legislation. Zerwas, R-Richmond, and his committee will watch the national health care debate and figure out the impact of legislation on the state — that is, if D.C. comes to any conclusions. Even less enviable might be the Select Committee on Fiscal Stability, headed by CPA John Otto, R-Dayton, which will figure out what's causing the budget shortfall and whether Texas can meet future budget obligations. Not. Fun.
In-ter-est-ing. Democratic consultant Matt Angle has long been considered a kingmaker in Texas Democratic politics. Roll Call takes a look at Angle's Texas Democratic Trust and its relationship to the state party — it's donated more than $3.7 million. The Trust's staff have also been known to be significant beneficiaries of their own cause. It's all legal, yes, but the story gives a fascinating look at the cast of Democratic characters.  

"My religion is American ... I'm a Muslim Quaker. Have you ever heard of that?" — Farouk Shami, explaining his amorphous religious identification.

MUST READ

Perry appears well-financed as he, Hutchison prepare campaign reportsThe Dallas Morning News

Medina hopes to take advantage of GOP debate spotlightFort Worth Star-Telegram

Wardens quit in wake of Comeaux escapeHouston Chronicle 

This count counts: City's future relies on 2010 Census figures, officials emphasizeEl Paso Times

2010: The year of new opportunities Politico


Texas Tribune donors or members may be quoted or mentioned in our stories, or may be the subject of them. For a complete list of contributors, click here.