Office of the Governor Rick Perry

Gov. Perry: Texas Knows Best How to Educate Our Students

*Note - Gov. Perry frequently departs from prepared remarks.
Wednesday, January 13, 2010  •  Austin, Texas  •  Speech

I am here to announce that Texas will not apply for federal "Race to the Top" funding because our state and our communities must reserve the right to decide how we educate our children and not surrender control to the federal bureaucracy.

This program is not a "Race to the Top," but a sprint to the middle where soaring costs and one-size-fits-all approaches will leave our children ill-equipped to compete in the global economy.

The funding in question is certainly tempting, but it is one-time money.The obligations we are being asked to undertake including things like adopting national standards and tests would be with us for years.

Banking on the fact that cash-strapped states will sign away their futures for some up-front money Washington is hoping to expand its power by making it practically impossible for states to win funding without accepting new national education standards and tests which, by the way, haven't even been written yet.

There's a chance that, when they are written, they could end up being less stringent than the ones we already have.To me and to a lot of education experts and parents across our state, that smacks of a federal takeover of public schools.

Here in Texas, and even here in this room, we do not have broad consensus on every issue facing our school system but we would much rather work out our issues in Texas with solutions that work for Texans instead of accepting a top-down mandate from distant bureaucrats.

"Race to the Top" doesn't make financial sense either.Adopting these new, unseen standards would require us to purchase new testing materials, teacher development tools, and textbooks.

Such measures would cost Texas taxpayers upwards of $3 billion all in a bid to snare as little as $75 per student or the cost of a typical textbook.Knowing how DC works, we'd probably get even less than that.

Regardless of the dollar amounts, I am not prepared to sell control of our state's education system for any price.It could very well lead to the "dumbing down" of the rigorous standards we've worked so hard to enact over the past several years.

These standards were developed through an open process involving parents, teachers, and business leaders and recently adopted by our elected state board of education not by unaccountable bureaucrats in Washington.Together, we have created a system of educational standards and accountability that has earned Texas praise as a national leader.

For example, we were one of the first states to make a college-ready curriculum the standard.We have increased transparency, making officials more accountable.We have offered troubled schools and districts the tools they need to turn themselves around.

The results speak for themselves.

In the past school year, TAKS scores were up in every subject and every grade the dropout rate has decreased and Texas was recognized as one of only four states to be closing the achievement gap in math.

If Washington were truly concerned about funding education with solutions that match local challenges they would make the money available to states with no strings attached. Instead, they roll out "Race to the Top" and its tangle of red tape.

On the heels of the healthcare fiasco, Washington is attempting to take over yet another essential function and make even more personal decisions for our citizens.

Do Texans want to experience the mediocrity of an unresponsive, inefficient federal government in yet another key part of their lives? You can be sure a competitive state like Texas is in their crosshairs

Don't take my word for it.Just last year, Secretary of Education Arne Duncan said "If we accomplish one thing in the coming years, it should be to eliminate the extreme variation in standards across America." Spoken like a true bureaucrat-more concerned with control and comfortable predictability than with innovation, effectiveness and competition or genuinely improving the lives of our young people.

Like they do in nearly every arena, Washington wants one standard a standard they control for all 50 states mandating one approach to teaching children no matter their background the size of their community or the nature of their specialized needs.Soon after Secretary Duncan's speech, "Race to the Top" was slipped into the so-called stimulus bill.

This legislative sleight-of-hand was a cynical attempt to sidestep state protections included in the federal "No Child Left Behind" legislation passed in 2002 that prohibited the use of federal funds for the creation of national standards and tests "Race to the Top" is clearly an effort to entice states into abdicating responsibility and surrendering their legal rights in exchange for short-term, immediate funding.

Instead of mandating yet another one-size-fits-all solution Washington should encourage competition between the states to develop the best standards and programs because competition fuels innovation which is how things get done better, quicker and more effectively.Unfortunately, that kind of competition represents a race that Washington would rather not run because they know they'll lose what they desire most: control.

Texas is on the right path toward improved education so we'd be foolish and irresponsible to place our children's future in the hands of unelected bureaucrats thousands of miles away in Washington and to virtually eliminate parents' participation in their children's education.

That is why we are declining participation in the "Race to the Top" initiative.


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