House Democratic leaders are circulating a draft of a scaled-down version of the edujobs bill that would include $10 billion to prevent teacher layoffs.
For those keeping score at home, the $10 billion would be a significant decrease from the $23 billion that Rep. David R. Obey, D-Wis., and Sen. Tom Harkin, D-Iowa, initially sought to stave off staff reductions. Conservative Democrats balked at the $23 billion pricetag and the fact that the bill would add to the deficit.
This time around, there’s a lot less money, and the spending would be offset by about $12 billion in reductions to other programs, including an $800 million cut in funding for new discretionary programs in the U.S. Department of Education.
The $800 million question, for now, is ... where would that money come from? That’s not clear yet. I can’t think of many new discretionary programs, other than the ones created under the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act, most notably the $4.35 billion Race to the Top program, the $650 million Investing in Innovation Grants. And since we’re talking about discretionary grants, it’s unlikely anyone would be looking at money approved under the stimulus for Title I or special education.
Under the draft, if a governor doesn’t submit an application for the edujobs fund, the Department of Education can make awards directly to other entities within the state. (Take that, Gov. Mark Sanford, R-S.C.!) And, according to a notice about the draft, the bill also would include strict provisions to ensure that states use the funds only to save K-12 jobs, not to supplant state spending on education.
Money from the Education Jobs Fund could not be used for equipment, utilities, renovation, or transportation. And the draft bars states from using any of the money for “Rainy-Day Funds” or to pay off debt.
The money would be attached to an emergency spending bill financing the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. That vehicle could complicate matters, since many progressive Democrats would like to vote against war funding.
The draft also includes $4.95 billion to help shore up the Pell Grant program, which helps low-income students pay for college. That’s not quite enough to make up the gap in the program, but it will help, leaving a shortfall of about $717 million, advocates say. The Pell shortfall has ramifications for key K-12 programs, such as Title I and special education, because they are financed under the same legislation. If there needs to be additional funding for Pell grants, that might mean less money for those programs.