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TribBlog: Still Not Racing to the Top [Updated]

Gov. Rick Perry wasn't interested in federal "Race to the Top" money before — and he isn't now, either.

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Gov. Rick Perry wasn't interested in federal "Race to the Top" money before — and he isn't now, either. Washington can keep its money and the bureaucratic strings that come with it, the governor announced today.

Texas won't be applying for the second round of the competitive federal grant program — which could be worth between $350 million and $700 million in one-time money to the state's education system. Like the first time he turned it away, Perry's chief concern is that Texas would be penalized in the application process for refusing to sign up for national education standards. “This administration’s attempt to bait states into adopting national standards is an effort to undermine states’ authority to determine how their students are educated, and is clearly aimed at circumventing laws prohibiting national standards,” Perry said in a statement. “Abandoning state standards and adopting new nationalized standards would cost Texas taxpayers $3 billion, and would likely weaken the rigorous college- and career-ready standards and assessments already in place in our state.”

Texas Education Commissioner Robert Scott concurred, saying in a statement, "It would not only cost Texas a great deal of money to abandon our state standards, which are the product of years of hard work by Texas educators and stakeholders, it would be bad policy."

Refusal to adopt the national curriculum standards could cost Texas 70 points on the 500-point application. Critics of Perry's decision have questioned whether his motives were driven more by politics than policy, in keeping with the anti-Washington theme of his re-election campaign. They argue that, especially with budgets being cut, Texas shouldn't be turning away the chance for millions in extra money for schools.

Scott told the Tribune that, while it sounds windfall, the potential reward wouldn't do much for the state's $57 billion-a-year education budget. "That amount of money would run Texas schools for two days," he says of the Race to the Top funds.

With no more application rounds anticipated, this should be the end of the line for Race to the Top in Texas, says Scott. Though, he expects that the push for national curriculum standards — and subsequent pushback by Texas and other states — will continue.

There has been talk at the federal level of making more than $1.3 billion available for local school districts to apply for directly — effectively allowing them to sidestep state governments.  If that becomes an option, Scott says, districts are welcome to apply for it. "I would just remind them," he says, "they're still required under state law to adhere to our curriculum standards.  You don't want to adopt both."

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