President Barack Obama’s $787 trillion failed stimulus included a $4.3 billion set aside for Secretary of Education Arne Duncan’s “Race to the Top” fund. States that jump through the right Obama administration hoops can win up to $750 million in stimulus cash.

But yesterday, Gov. Rick Perry (R-TX) announced that Texas will  become the first state not to participate in this next step toward the  creation of national education standards. Brooke Dollens Terry of the Texas Public Policy Foundation explains why:

  • Education has historically been a state issue, with power in Texas delegated to the Texas Legislature and the State Board of Education. Texas lawmakers control funding and school requirements, and the State Board makes decisions about curriculum. All of these are elected positions directly accountable to the voters at least once every four years.
  • States such as Texas may have to spend state funds to access the federal dollars. The Texas Education Agency estimates that Texas will have to spend $3 billion just to have the chance to access, at most, $750 million.
  • The federal funding will dry up. As we are seeing with other stimulus funds, states and local school districts would need to find funding for the reforms after the federal money goes away.
  • What if the “reform” could be a step backwards for quality of a state’s education system?
  • Education is a state issue, and the federal government has no business dictating academic standards or curriculum to states. Washington, please leave Texas alone.

It seems that if Texas continues to hold out on moving towards a national curriculum, Texas will lose points on its application for Race to the Top funds. Why should a state that has steadily improved the rigor of its own K-12 curriculum be forced to adopt national curriculum standards that have not been developed and could wind up being weaker than what we already have in place?

Since adding more math and science course requirements and college-readiness components, Texas is in the process of updating its textbooks and designing state end-of-course exams that align to the new curriculum. Yet if Texas were to scrap its own curriculum in favor a national curriculum, Texas would have to spend an estimated $3 billion – $2 billion to purchase new textbooks and $1 billion to redesign our state tests.