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Federal Funds No Cure for School Budget Woes

Fort Worth senator says money was state budget proposal also counted the funds

By Lindsay Wilcox
|  Wednesday, Apr 13, 2011  |  Updated 7:21 PM CDT
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Federal Funds Won't Cure School Money Woes

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The $830 million in federal education funds may not help schools much.

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Hundreds of millions in federal education funds could be on the way to Texas, but the money may not help school budget crises across the state.

The $830 million in federal money was held up because of a Texas-specific provision that required the money be used to supplement state dollars, not replace them.

The measure was repealed in the federal budget deal that was reached over the weekend and is expected to pass into law later this week.

But Sen. Wendy Davis, D-Fort Worth, also told the Houston Chronicle that the state budget proposal being considered already assumes Texas would receive the federal money. School districts are underfunded by about $4 billion in that budget, she said.

The Dallas Independent School District said that even if the money goes to schools in addition to the state funding levels currently proposed, it would only shrink DISD's shortfall by about 25 percent. That amount is not enough to prevent layoffs, the district said.

The Texas congressman who inserted the provision said he put it in because state lawmakers used $3.2 billion in federal stimulus money to replace state money in 2009.

The provision required Gov. Rick Perry to promise the state would maintain certain education spending levels through 2013 to get the funds. Perry complained the Texas Constitution prohibited him from committing to future state spending.

Texas applied for the money anyway, but was rejected and later filed suit against the Department of Education.

Perry has made no secret about his desire to repeal the provision holding up the funds, a Perry spokeswoman said Wednesday.

"The people of the state of Texas will be better served with those dollars flowing to where they should be (going)," Perry said following a speech in Dallas. "Our delegation and leadership in Washington D.C. obviously saw through it as just a cheap political stunt."

The Associated Press' Chris Tomlinson contributed to this report.

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