A bipartisan effort to boost funding for the Teacher Incentive Fund by an extra $100 million went down to defeat today during the full Senate Appropriations Committee’s markup of the bill funding the U.S. Department of Education in fiscal year 2010.
The bill already includes $300 million for the TIF, a teacher performance-pay program that is currently funded at $97 million. The proposed increase in the failed amendment would have been paid for by taking $100 million out of the federal State Grants for Improving Teacher Quality program.
The Obama administration had asked for $487 million for the Teacher Incentive Fund in its FY 2010 budget request, and the House of Representatives last week approved $445 million for the program. The amendment went down 13-16, with both Republicans and Democrats voting for and against.
The defeat came despite an assertion from the amendment’s sponsor, Sen. Mary Landrieu, D-La., that the TIF is the president’s highest priority. She said she expected the amendment to be noncontroversial and pass on a quick “voice vote.”
But instead there was a lot of pushback. Other lawmakers, including Sen. Patty Murray, D-Wash., expressed qualms about the program.
“This amendment will take a significant amount of money from programs that are already supporting teachers,” Murray said. “I know my state will lose $1.6 million with [this amendment].” She added that lawmakers should take a closer look “before we add another $100 million to this program, which has never been authorized.”
Sen. Tom Harkin, D-Iowa, who supported the language, said the legislation would require collaboration with educators on programs, which he said helped alleviate his “qualms” about the program.
Marc Egan, a lobbyist for the National Education Association, the nation’s largest teachers’ union, said that the organization was “very thrilled with the vote.” He said that the union would have had difficulties with any measure that sought to divert money from other education programs and put it in the TIF, because, given the trying economic times, “there are a lot more pressing needs.”
There weren’t other substantive changes to the bill since a Senate subcommittee considered the measure earlier this week.
Expect the TIF to continue to be an issue when the Senate bill hits the floor, or goes to conference with the House version.