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State secrets on Texas school front

Ohanian Comment: What passes for a "state secret" in Texas is fascinating, but why would I comment when I can use comments from Houston Chronicle readers?


JGainer: Is anyone as frustrated as me that the Gov and the Commissioner make decisions as if they are the smartest in the room (when they are both Goobers)? They are the weakest combination ever of the two positions at the same time and detremental to the public schools. They are worse than weak leaders by what they believe is 'creative' thinking and doting over each others prowess when in reallity we are laughed at and viewed as ineffective in the lack of decision making ability. Neither can come up with a timely plan but yet the schools are held accountable.

Cad1936: You guys just don't understand Gov. Perry. He is doing this because he knows the education systems in Florida, Illinoise and California need this money worse than the kids in Texas and he knows that a good education is not important to the middle and lower class folks. I wonder if the 800 hours includes the time and effort Bill Gates (that communist and socialist) and his foundation have put in to aid Texas in its quest for the money.

StuWillie: So, where do Hutchison and Medina stand on this issue? Do they have the guts to show their positions or will they wait for Bill White to come out for it and then be against it because he is a lock-step commie like the president?

These neo-cons are doing nothing but hauling money in by the truckloads from lobbyists and soon-to-be corporations. They should all be behind bars for treason and fraud against the people of Texas.

By Rick Casey

Before being ordered by Gov. Rick Perry not to compete for a chunk of the $4.3 billion âRace to the Topâ federal grants for public schools, staffers at the Texas Education Agency had put in more than 800 hours preparing an application.

Inquiring minds, including my colleague Ericka Mellon, wanted to look at what our employees had proposed and filed requests for copies of the draft under the Texas Public Information Act.

But TEA Commissioner Robert Scott, a Perry loyalist, ordered agency attorneys to appeal to the attorney general, asking that the work be declared a state secret.

The Public Information Act states that all documents produced with the taxpayers' money are public with certain specific exceptions.

So what exception is the TEA citing?

The exception that information can be kept from the public if its release "would give advantage to a competitor or bidder."

But we're not bidding or competing.

What's more, according to an excellent story by Austin-based Quorum Report, at least 37 states that are competing have already posted their applications online. One of the few that decided not to do so, New York, just reversed its position after a freedom-of-information request.

And U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan says all the applications will be posted soon (after state identifiers are removed) so that states can learn from one another.

You would think promoting learning would be a fundamental concept of education, but not in the Texas bureaucracy.

Actually the TEA letter to the attorney general offers an intriguing additional possible reason for keeping the material secret.

Gov. Perry may be waffling.

We may want Comrade Barack Obama's stinking money after all. Even if it does require us to adhere to some sort of national standards. (As if former Gov. George W. Bush's No Child Left Behind didn't establish national standards.)

TEA attorney W. Montgomery Meitler notes in his three-page, single-spaced letter to Attorney General Greg Abbott that the $4 billion will be doled out in two phases.

"Although the state of Texas did not submit an application for the Race to the Top Fund in Phase 1 of the process, the state is eligible to submit an application for Phase 2," he wrote. "The requested information consists of draft documents concerning TEA's development of Texas' application for the Race to the Top Fund. These draft documents will be utilized for TEA's Phase 2 application."

Note that Meitler did not say "would be utilized." He said "will be utilized."

Is Gov. Perry being clever here? Is he saying no to the money in order to throw red meat to conservatives in the Republican primary, but plans to say yes afterward -- sort of like how his pal Sarah Palin said yes to the Bridge from Nowhere before saying no to it?

Is he following the old rule that a politician needs to move to the right (or left for Democrats) for the primary and to the center for the general election?

Is he also lying behind the log so Texas can take advantage of learning from the winners in the first round?

Would that be like cheating on the TAKS test?

— Rick Casey
Houston Chronicle


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