So, it’s May and the pink slips are going out. Where exactly is that $23 billion to help stabilize education jobs?
Well, Sen. Tom Harkin, D-Iowa, the chairman of the subcommittee overseeing education spending and the author of the bill, has plans to introduce it as an amendment to a bill making supplemental appropriations for the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, a Senate aide told me. Lobbyists expect that bill to hit the floor in the next couple weeks.
Two issues have the potential to gum up the works or at least spark debate, either on the Senate floor or later on in the process. The first, and by far the most important, is that if the bill is attached to the war supplemental there doesn’t have to be an offset, meaning that the cost doesn’t need to be covered by a cut to another program. That’s likely to have Republicans, and possibly even some moderate Democrats, up in arms.
But education advocates, such as Joel Packer, the executive director of the Committee for Education Funding, argue that a potential loss of 300,000 jobs constitutes emergency spending, since its something lawmakers could not have foreseen when they passed appropriations bills.
The other issue? The Education Trust and the New Teacher Project both want to see Congress ask districts to end their “last hired, first fired” practices in exchange for passing the bill, arguing it will lead, ultimately, to more layoffs.
But Harkin isn’t into that.
Here’s his statement on the matter:
Teacher tenure is a highly complex and contentious issue that deserves a thorough review during the reauthorization of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act. This jobs bill is not the right vehicle to take that on. If we don't act quickly, 300,000 educators could lose their jobs. This is an emergency situation that we have to address right now. When a house is burning, first you put out the fire. Then you talk about reforms. If Congress has to spend weeks debating teacher tenure, there will be no jobs bill. Besides, many state legislatures have completed their sessions. Even if states wanted to change their teacher tenure laws, it's not reasonable to expect they could do so before this funding would need to be awarded in time to save educators' jobs this fall. Allowing only those states with certain laws to receive this funding wouldn't be fair to educators in the other states. More importantly, it wouldn't be fair to the students in the other states. All students deserve a good education - not just those who happen to live in the "right" states