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Fighting over Edujobs, Religion, and Health Care in the States

A pair of Republican senators from Texas, Kay Bailey Hutchison and John Cornyn, have introduced a bill to allow the state access $830 million in education jobs aid, money that is caught in dispute that is part political, part legal.

As readers of this blog know, Congress approved a $26 billion "edujobs" measure this summer to provide relief to state governments, and Texas was entitled to an $830 million cut of it.

But the measure also included a provision, backed by Texas Democratic Congressman Lloyd Doggett and others, that required the state to maintain school funding over the next three years in order to receive the money. Doggett's goal was to ensure that Republican Gov. Rick Perry and state lawmakers did not use the funds to simply make up for budget cuts, as the congressman says they did with earlier federal stimulus aid. Gov. Perry has blasted the move (the "anti-Texas Doggett amendment," in his words) and asked the federal government to hold onto funding for Texas until state lawmakers pass a budget next year.

The new Republican legislation would repeal the Texas-specific requirement in the law and put the state "on an even playing field" with other states, said Courtney Sanders, a spokeswoman for Hutchison.

"The repeal legislation is welcome news to Texas' hard-working teachers and students, who deserve the federal education dollars that Lloyd Doggett has prevented Texas from receiving," Perry said in a statement on the legislation offered by Hutchison and Cornyn.

Meanwhile, it seems that Texas could soon host another fight, this one focused educational and cultural issues, set in motion by a familiar group of players. The Texas State Board of Education is expected to consider a resolution next week to warn school publishers not to produce materials that contain what panelists deem to be pro-Islam, anti-Christian points of view, the Dallas Morning News reports. The Texas board has hosted several memorable and prolonged battles over a variety of cultural issues in recent years, including the teaching of evolution and the treatment of various prominent leaders and events in U.S. history.

And in Nebraska, a group of education organizations, including a teachers' union and school boards' association, have authored a letter criticizing unfunded mandates. That might not seem that unusual, except that a few weeks ago, those groups had received an ususual written request from Republican Gov. Dave Heineman asking them to support a repeal of the federal health care law.

In a pair of letters to the school organizations, Heineman had said that the health care law would lead to increased Medicaid costs for the state and force cuts in what it spends on schools. Nebraska Democrats have accused the Republican governor of grandstanding and attempting to bully schools organizations into staking out a partisan position.

The Nebraska groups appear to have rejected the governor's request for a denunciation of health care, and stuck to a more generic objection to unfunded mandates—an enduring complaint of state officials everywhere.

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