Despite support from big-name congressional Democrats, the administration, and the very energetic lobbying efforts of a number of education groups, the edujobs bill still has not made it to legislative prime-time.
Conservative and moderate Democrats, as well as Republicans, are questioning the impact of the legislation’s $23 billion price tag on the federal deficit. And the measure may, for now, be in (indirect) competition with another bill also aimed at steadying faltering state finances, a $24 billion measure offering Medicaid aid to states.
That money is nearly as important to education as the edujobs bill, some advocates tell me, because some 30 states have included it in their budgets for fiscal year 2011. If it doesn’t get approved, they’ll have to go back and make cuts...quite possibly to education. The Senate failed to approve a $120 billion measure that included the Medicaid aid last week.
Much of the opposition to the edujobs measure comes from the lack of an “offset.” There have been concerns that Rep. David R. Obey, D-Wis., the chairman of the House Appropriations Committee, may cut the cost of the bill to as little as $10 billion. And he may be looking to offset at least part of the cost by shifting unspent money from the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act for education and other areas to the edujobs measure.
Some folks are worried that that could include some of the competitive pots, like Race to the Top, the Investing in Innovation Fund (i3), and even Title I and special education money.
But Sen. Tom Harkin, D-Iowa, the bill’s Senate champion, has said he doesn’t want to see ARRA dollars used. And it’s tough to see the administration supporting that plan. My guess? It’s a long shot that those dollars would be used. But Congress can be pretty unpredicatable.
For their part, of course, most education advocates are opposed.
“That would be robbing Peter to pay Peter,” Joel Packer, the executive director of the Committee for Education Funding, told me. To make his argument, Packer is pointing to this recent Gallup poll, which shows Americans favor additional government spending to stimulate the economy. He’s also touting this Roll Call editorial, which seems to be a counterpoint to these editorials.
Meanwhile, Eduwonk, is taking a look at what the lack of support for the edujobs measure means for the overall political environment.