The federal government and Texas Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick are locked in a game of chicken.
On Friday, May 13, President Barack Obama sent a letter ordering public schools to allow transgender students to use the restrooms and changing facilities of their choice or else schools will lose federal education funding. The same day, Texas Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick suggested Texas would be willing to forfeit its federal education funding rather than follow the president’s directive.
The federal directive came amid dueling lawsuits between North Carolina and the Justice Department over a state law that protects businesses that base access to restrooms and locker rooms on biology, rather than gender identity.
Texas currently receives $10 billion in federal education funding. Millions of students and programs would be affected by this potential loss of funding, but Patrick said Obama “can keep his 30 pieces of silver. We will not yield to blackmail.”
Texas receives the third largest allocation of federal education funds behind California and New York. One-fourth of the 7 million Texas children live in poor families. (Nationally, 21 percent of children live in poverty.)
If Texas and the federal government remain deadlocked, the $2.7 billion Texas receives specifically for disadvantaged and disabled students would be gone.
Among the programs that would lose federal funding are Title I school reading, math, tutoring, and lunch programs. Programs for children with physical and mental disabilities would lose more than $1 billion. Rural and low-income schools, where children score lower on state academic tests, would be out $16.2 million in federal funding. English as a Second Language programs, along with programs for homeless children would also lose major funding.
The question for the Obama administration: Will its demands for transgender bathroom use receive priority over the education of millions of children in Texas? The question for the Texas government: How far will you go?
Eleven states in all filed a lawsuit at a federal court in Texas last week against the federal government in response to Obama’s letter. Texas, Alabama, Georgia, Louisiana, Oklahoma, Tennessee, Utah, West Virginia, Wisconsin, Arizona, and Maine cited the directive as a clear example of overreach into what should be state decisions