AUSTIN — The state initiated its 10th legal action this year against the federal government on Thursday, charging that the Education Department "unlawfully disapproved" Gov. Rick Perry's request for $830 million in disputed education money.
The legal challenge by Attorney General Greg Abbott widens a dispute between Texas and Washington over the state's share of a $10 billion education jobs package passed by Congress last month. A Texas-only amendment by Rep. Lloyd Doggett, D-Austin, requires the state to retain the same level of education funding for three years to qualify for the money.
The Education Department rejected Perry's request for the funding on Sept. 8, saying the application did not meet the terms of the Doggett amendment. But Abbott's legal petition, which seeks a judicial review by the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit, charges that the department misapplied federal law and unconstitutionally discriminated against Texas.
"The Doggett amendment singles out Texas for discriminatory treatment and requires Texas to make assurances that were not required of any other state," Abbott said. "But worse, when Texas tried to satisfy the heightened standard, the state's application was rejected and Texas schoolchildren were denied hundreds of millions of dollars in education funding." Doggett called the legal action "another act of political theater," saying Abbott's news release was longer than the legal petition.
"Only Gov. Perry's purposeful alteration of the application is temporarily delaying these funds," Doggett said. He also cited statements by Education Secretary Arne Duncan that the funds are still being held for Texas.
"Filing a lawsuit is not the most productive way to resolve this right now," Education Department press secretary Sandra Abrevaya said. "We're eager to get this money working for schoolchildren and stand ready to work with the state to make that happen."
The filing was the latest in a series of challenges by the Republican-led state government against the policies of President Barack Obama's Democratic administration and the Democratic-controlled Congress.
According to a tally by the attorney general's office, Abbott has filed 10 legal challenges against the federal government, though some of have been in concert with other states. Others have focused on environmental policy, healthcare and immigration.
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