As we’ve mentioned before, the House of Representatives passed a $23 billion education jobs bill as part of its Jobs for Main Street Act back in December 2009. That program never went anywhere, and Congress went on to pass the HIRE Act, a law that provides tax incentives for businesses and makes some changes to the Qualified School Construction Bond program. After education funding was left out of the most recent jobs bill, states and school districts have been begging for additional federal support to keep schools open and teachers in classrooms. According to reports from Ed Week and the Washington Post, their prayers have been answered.
Senator Tom Harkin (D-IA) proposed a $23 billion education jobs bill, much like the one passed in the House, earlier today. U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan stated his support for the bill, citing widespread budget troubles in schools around the country.
Despite Secretary Duncan’s support, this legislation is likely to present a challenge in the Senate, where large bailout-style spending programs have proven unpopular in the past. For example, back in 2009 when the House and Senate were working on what would eventually become the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act, Senate moderates cut nearly $30 billion from the House’s original State Fiscal Stabilization Fund, a $48.6 billion program that helps states fill budget gaps in education and other services.
Hopefully, the Senate will be able to build some sort of consensus around this education jobs program, which is much more targeted to salary and benefits expenditures than general operating costs, given the current need.