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Gov. Perry orders more money to classrooms, more taxpayer accountability

Austin, TX –

Saying Texans have demanded education reforms that must be acted upon, Gov. Rick Perry today began using his executive authority to implement key education reforms that the Texas Legislature has failed to pass. He directed the Texas Education Agency (TEA) to implement the requirement that at least 65 percent of education dollars be spent in the classroom as well as numerous additional financial accountability measures for Texas schools.

"Today I am issuing an executive order that will put into law some of the most important education reforms that lawmakers failed to pass, including a requirement that 65 percent of all education funds be spent on direct classroom instruction," Perry said. "This executive order will mean more financial accountability for taxpayers, more efficiency in school spending and more money directed to the classroom so that more children achieve."

Under Perry's directive, TEA Commissioner Shirley Neeley will design and implement a new financial accountability and reporting system for Texas schools. Over the next several years, schools will be required to spend an increasingly greater share of funds on direct classroom instruction - as defined by the National Center for Education Statistics - until the goal of 65 percent is reached.

"This order means schools that do not currently meet this standard will be spending more dollars on items like classroom computers and technology, science lab equipment, books and instructional materials or even higher teacher salaries," Perry said.

Perry said that the 65 percent requirement is "reasonable" and only those intent on spending more tax dollars on activities other than direct classroom expenditures would oppose it.

Perry acknowledged that tax dollars also must be spent on transportation, school lunches and reasonable administrative costs, but "it seems only right that if success in the classroom is the goal, close to two-thirds of education dollars should be spent directly on classroom instruction."

"While the legislative session has now ended, the need for school reform has not and Texans can rest assured that even though the legislature did not act, I will," Perry added. "The people have demanded reform, they have been promised reform and I intend to deliver reform using the full constitutional authority of the executive branch."

The governor's executive order also requires schools to report how efficiently they are using taxpayer dollars, whether they are consolidating administrative functions with other government entities, and amounts expended on the following items:

- Funds used for school district operations not related to direct instruction, including counseling services, technology, nursing and social services.

- Funds used for maintenance, repair, and construction of school district facilities.

- Funds used for professional development and related purposes and how those funds relate to core academic areas required under state curriculum standards and as measured by state assessments.

- Dues or contributions to a non-instructional club, committee or organization.

- Funds provided to any person or organization for the purpose of lobbying.

- Funds expended for consulting services, media and public relations services.

- Funds expended for legal services, including legal fees spent on lawsuits against the state.

- Funds available in school district fund balances.

Schools that exhibit poor financial management will be subject to special accreditation investigations and tough sanctions.

"My executive order will give taxpayers the accountability they deserve because it opens every school district's financial books to public scrutiny," Perry said. "Taxpayers may find they have the best-run schools in the state of Texas or they may find areas where their schools should be getting more for their money. With greater transparency in our schools, parents will be empowered to demand change if needed at the local level."

Perry said he was acting to implement education reform because improving classroom performance is simply too important to wait for lawmakers to overcome their differences. He also encouraged Texans to speak out forcefully for other reforms left unaddressed by lawmakers such as real property tax relief that includes lower rates and protections against rising appraisals. "While I hope to one day reach a legislative consensus on school finance, we can no longer delay taking action that will benefit schoolchildren, parents and taxpayers," Perry said. "They deserve better than unfulfilled promises and continued delays. They deserve immediate action."

Perry also said that while he cannot mandate a property tax cut or authorize an across-the-board teacher pay raise on my own, he will continue to take his case directly to the people.

"I will continue to use my constitutional authority to ensure that the education reforms mandated by the people are implemented according to their will," Perry said.