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Key House Democrat Wants Hearings on Obama Jobs Plan Right Away

By Alyson Klein — September 12, 2011 2 min read
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Can President Obama’s big jobs plan actually reinvigorate the sluggish economy? Rep. George Miller of California, the top Democrat on the House Education and the Workforce Committee, wants to know the answer to that question. He’s hoping that Rep. John Kline, R-Minn., the chairman of the panel, will start hearings immediately on whether or not the jobs plan could work.

Miller sent a letter on Friday to Kline asking that the committee get started immediately.

Specifically, Miller wants to see the panel take a look at the education portion of the nearly $450 billion jobs plan, which Obama is slated to send to Congress today. The plan includes $25 billion for K-12 school construction, $5 billion for community college renovations, and $30 billion to avert teacher layoffs and spur hiring at schools.

In the letter, Miller says that 85,000 school personnel this summer received pink slips (which, in educationland, isn’t alwaysthe same thing as being laid off). That brings the total number of education workers laid off since 2008 to a whopping 290,000, Miller says. That had led to larger class sizes, Miller argues, and could jeopardize the nation’s economic future.

Miller also wants the committee, which has jurisdiction over labor issues, to look into some of the president’s workforce proposals, including a $5 billion “Pathways Back to Work” program, which would cover the cost of jobs training programs, including summer employment for disadvantaged youth.

A spokeswoman for Kline didn’t respond immediately to a request for reaction to Miller’s letter. UPDATE: - Alexandra Sollberger, a spokeswoman for the House Education and Labor Committee, emailed to say, “No committee activity surrounding the president’s proposal has been scheduled at this time. Once we receive the proposal and have an opportunity to review the details, we’ll be able to make a decisions about next steps. Please stay tuned.”

But, Kline and other committee Republicans are clearly skeptical about the plan, which they essentially argue is throwing good money after bad (aka the stimulus). GOP lawmakers also say that more money for education hasn’t lead to better student outcomes.

And, they argue, school districts around the country aren’t doing enough to cut costs while ensuring that students aren’t effected, in part because most continue to rely on a “last hired, first fired” system for deciding which teachers to lay off first. That doesn’t take teacher effectiveness into account, GOP lawmakers say. They’re also worried the president’s school construction initative could mean more regulation of the school facilities industry and a “federal takeover” of K-12 construction.

Also, for those of you watching the long stalled and still stuck reauthorization of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act, the jobs proposal could set up yet another stumbling block to completing it this year. In his letter, Miller asked Kline to get going to reauthorization of the Workforce Investment Act, or WIA. That’s the law that governs job training programs. But a new focus on WIA might take attention from ESEA.

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