The U.S. Senate approved its “lite” version of a federal infusion of cash for education today by a vote of 61-37, with just three Republicans crossing the aisle to support an $838 billion economic stimulus measure that would provide some $80 billion for education programs.
That’s less than the $140 billion for education in the $819 billion House stimulus measure, but still a sizable chunk of change, considering the Senate bill would have more money for education than the U.S. Department of Education’s entire $59.2 billion discretionary budget.
The Senate’s original bill contained about the same amount of education spending as the House legislation. But $16 billion was eliminated in grants for school construction, and direct aid to states for education was reduced, all as part of a compromise worked out by moderate lawmakers.
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Update: Sounds like the positioning has already begun for conference and supporters of the billions in school construction funds are trying to get it back. The House version still includes $14 billion in school construction grants.
Rep. George Miller, D-Calif., the chairman of the House Education and Labor Committee, just released this statement:
While I am glad the Senate has now joined the House in passing legislation to get our economy moving forward again, it appears the Senate bill creates about 400,000 fewer jobs than the House legislation. With more Americans losing their jobs by the day, we must make every effort to bring that figure up. “As President Obama has said, one way we can do that is by restoring investments to modernize our nation’s schools and colleges. The $14 billion to repair, renovate and update public schools included in the House plan would create at least 315,000 more jobs than what the Senate bill generates. Modernizing our schools and colleges is a common-sense way we can quickly create jobs while helping our students get a 21st century education, and should get restored to this plan as negotiations move forward.”
Sounds pretty on-message, considering President Barack Obama’s plugfor school construction in last night’s prime-time press conference, and Secretary of Education Arne Duncan’s school visit today, in which he madea pitchfor school construction.
Could be an uphill battle though. Republicans, and some moderate Democrats, have long argued that school construction is a state and local responsibility. They’re worried that including money for the program in the stimulus bill could set a dangerous precedent.