In 2009, Republican state leadership denied our vital Texas schools more than $3 billion in federal aid--in other words, federal dollars made not a dime of difference to our schoolchildren and our teachers. To prevent such budgeting games from reoccurring, I worked with the Democratic Texas Congressional Delegation to secure special protections to ensure federal aid to education actually helped Texas school children. Despite repeated attacks and threats from Governor Perry and others and ultimate repeal by a new majority of the House of Representatives, the "Doggett Amendment," as the Governor derided it, had some positive impact. The amendment prevented the federal money from being hijacked into the Texas appropriation process where it almost certainly would have been used to hide cuts to public education made by the Texas Legislature in its budget for the upcoming biennium. In addition, the amendment drew attention to the meager amount the State was promising for public education. In the end, over $830 million in federal funds moved directly from TEA to local schools across Texas.
Supporting our public schools is a cause that my family shares. My wife Libby, a former bilingual elementary teacher at Ortega, is a national leader in Pre-K education, and my daughter Cathy is Pre-K Director for Region 13 in Austin. During the debate on our most recent budget, I called on the House Appropriations Committee to provide robust funding for the Child Care and Development Block Grant, Head Start and Early Head Start, and the Early Learning Challenge Fund. Whether or not American's most vulnerable young children will reach their potential depends in large part on our investment in these programs. Similarly, I urged the House Appropriations Committee to increase its support for the 21st Century Community Learning Centers program, which supports academic enrichment opportunities for students during non-school hours for children.
As a member of the Congressional Public Service Caucus, I have consistently supported funding for public service programs like Teach for America. In 2010, when Secretary of Education Arne Duncan came before the House Budget Committee to discuss the President's budget proposal cutting this program, I urged him to maintain funding for Teach for America. Last year, I called on the House Appropriations Committee to provide a competitive funding stream for non-profit programs like Teach for America that work to recruit and provide professional development for teachers and help them succeed in the classroom. This competitive funding stream will be available for Teach for America in 2012.