Government wrong to punish Texas’ schools

September has been a busy month in Texas’ fight to maintain autonomy against an increasingly oppressive federal government.

A federal judge in Florida held the first hearing in a lawsuit filed by Texas and 19 other states contesting the federally mandated health care coverage that became law in March. Last Thursday, Texas filed legal motions regarding its challenge to EPA regulations on greenhouse gases, vehicle emissions and other rules. Earlier in the month the Obama administration rejected the state’s application for its share of $10 billion Education Jobs Fund that Congress established earlier this year.

Lawmakers created the fund so that schools won’t have to lay off teachers in order to balance their budgets if the economy continues to falter.

The feds refused Texas’ allocation — projected to be up to $830 million — because Gov. Rick Perry wouldn’t promise to maintain certain levels for public education and Medicaid specified in the bill. The provisions apply only to Texas; no other state or U.S. territory had to make such assurances. And obviously, Medicaid funding has little to do with the state’s function of providing public education.

Worse, the amendment demanding those assurances, through 2013, was imposed by Texas Rep. Lloyd Doggett, who knows full well the governor doesn’t have the authority to make them. The Texas governor’s authority is limited, just like the president’s — they can’t initiate legislation, so they can’t rightfully make any pledges of how money will be used. Only the legislative bodies, which write and enact funding bills, can do that.

Texas’ state Constitution also requires a balanced budget, and budgets are written for just two years.

This is clear discrimination against the state of Texas. It also appears to be a shameless move by Democratic lawmakers to turn public opinion against the state’s Republican officials.

When asked what options the state might take if the money isn’t released, Attorney General Greg Abbott’s office issued a statement that “Texas taxpayers can rest assured that we are prepared to take whatever legal action is necessary to ensure that our schools do not suffer financially from the Doggett Amendment’s discriminatory — and constitutionally questionable — provisions.”

Such consideration is certainly warranted. Singling out one state, and imposing special requirements that other states don’t have to meet, especially when those requirements can’t be met, certainly appears to violate the constitutional mandate of equal protection of the laws.

In addition, the use of Texas’ children as pawns in a silly political game is unconscionable. But it’s an unfortunate consequence of giving government so much control over education.

We have long advocated greater parental control and more privatization in education, including the expansion of charter schools and possible voucher programs. This would enable parents to consider more options regarding their children’s education. After all, because they are most interested and affected by decisions regarding education, they should have more say in what those decisions are.

If the state can’t convince Congress to void the Doggett Amendment, then this is one more issue over which it might have to take its own government to court.