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Education Funding

Harkin Responds to Criticism of Senate Stimulus

By Alyson Klein — January 30, 2009 1 min read

Is the Senate stimulus anti-ed reform?

Mike Petrilli thinks so, but Sen. Tom Harkin, D-Iowa, who oversees the subcommittee that crafts education spending bills, indicates that’s not the case.

The bill doesn’t include the $200 million for the Teacher Incentive Fund grants, $250 million for state data systems, and separate funding for charter school facilities. Those provisions are in the House version of the measure and are embraced by many in the pro-accountability, no-excuses crowd.

Rep. George Miller, D-Calif., the chairman of the House Education and Labor Committee, who many consider the ultimate Democrat for Education Reform, is hoping those provisions make it through conference. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan said they are “hugely important” to him.

And just this week, some folks suggested that the stimulus would be a great vehicle for pushing through education redesign.

But Harkin seems to have a good argument for not including the programs in his chamber’s version of the economic stimulus package—namely the bill is moving too fast to craft good policy and it’s not palatable politically.

“The economic recovery bill should not be the vehicle for reauthorizing the No Child Left Behind Act,” said Harkin in a statement emailed to Politics K-12. “That process will require many months, multiple hearings, and much debate to do the job right. Our deadline for completing this bill is President’s Day. It would be foolhardy, not to mention politically impossible, to try to enact major education reforms in that kind of timeframe.”

And on those TIF funds, he said that it doesn’t make sense to include the money for the program in a two-year stimulus since the grants under the program are doled out over five years

“I have no objection to this program,” Harkin said in the statement. “I have included funding for TIF in the [education spending] bill for several years. And that’s where Congress should fund future increases for TIF – in regular appropriations bills, not the stimulus. TIF grants last 5 years. The stimulus bill covers just 2 years. If we increase funding for TIF in the stimulus, that gives us problems [later on], when we still have to cover continuation costs, but the stimulus money is gone. It makes more sense to fund an increase through the regular appropriations process.”

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