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AUSTIN In a decision with political shadings to it, Gov. Rick Perry said Wednesday he will not pursue hundreds of millions of dollars in federal education funds for Texas schools.

Perry, now waging a primary fight with Sen. Kay Bailey Hutchison for the Republican gubernatorial nomination, is keeping with his anti-Washington theme in saying that the state must reserve the right to decide how to educate its children.

Under the Race to the Top program that's part of the federal stimulus plan, Texas schools could have been eligible for up to $750 million in grants. The Texas Education Agency even prepared to apply for the funds, but Perry decided not to send in the paperwork.

We'd be foolish and I think irresponsible to place our children's future in the hands of unelected bureaucrats, the governor said.

Perry objected to the funding and said Texas would be required to follow national curriculum standards and cover ongoing costs.

Democratic lawmakers called Perry's decision a mistake, and said strings were not attached to this stimulus money.

Competing for grants that will incentivize our state to lower the achievement gap, decrease the dropout rate and better prepare Texas children for college is good public policy, said Rep. Jim Dunnan, chairman of the House Committee on Stimulus Funds, in a written statement.

But two of the larger teacher groups often aligned with Democrats sided with Perry, and one appeared at his news conference on Wednesday.

It seems to me that the Texas curriculum in the form that it currently exists is serving us quite well, said Jeri Stone of the Texas Classroom Teachers Association.

This isn't the first time Perry has turned down money from the federal government.

In March 2009, he rejected $555 million in stimulus funds that would have gone toward unemployment insurance.

At the time, he said there were too many strings attached to the money.

E-mail bwatson@wfaa.com

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