Secretary of Education Arne Duncan today officially called on Congress to pass a second round of funding to help states thwart layoffs and programmatic cuts.
This is a big deal because, up to now, the administration hadn’t officially asked for more education jobs money, even though the House passed this bill last year. So far, the Senate has been the holdout. But Sen. Tom Harkin, D-Iowa, the chairman of the Senate Appropriations panel that oversees education funding, is set to introduce a bill that would provide $23 billion in education jobs aid. Duncan testified before Harkin’s panel this morning.
I wondered yesterday whether Harkin would press Duncan to support his bill. But, as it turned out, Harkin didn’t even need to ask. Duncan very clearly called for the new aid, right at the beginning of the hearing.
And, in talking to reporters after the hearing, he continued to stump for the concept.
“It is brutal out there,” Duncan said. “It is really scary. We’re seeing massive layoffs around the country.” He said the fiscal problems are beginning to affect students, who worry that their favorite teachers will get laid off or are concerned that they are going to be forced to sit in even larger classes. Duncan also said he would work with members of Congress, including Harkin, on an aid package.
During the hearing, Harkin said the cost of the bill doesn’t need to be offset because its emergency spending. Which will make for some interesting debate on the Senate floor.