After months of negotiating among lawmakers, Education Departments nation-wide will be receiving relief in the form of $10 billion in school funds recently made possible with the passage of a $26 billion dollar aid package during a special session of the House called yesterday by Speaker Pelosi. The objective is a combined effort to prevent 300,000 teacher and public sector layoffs with $16 billion reserved to help state governments bridge massive Healthcare/Medicaid expenses weighing heavily on their budgets. In order to keep the bill from increasing the deficit, offsets were made by closing existing corporate tax loopholes and agreeing to cuts in food stamp programs slated to go into effect 4 years from now.
This aid package is a relief for school districts that have been hit hard by decreasing tax revenues due to a poor economy. Sacrifices have been the norm among administrators forced to cut bus routes, reduce educational programming and even shorten their school years. The saving of an estimated 160,000 teachers nation-wide is a small comfort to places like our home state New York, which is expected to receive $622 million or 8,200 jobs.
(To see how many teacher jobs will be saved state by state click here)
Rep. David R. Obey, the legislation’s champion in Congress, made headlines when he proposed covering the bill’s cost by diverting money from President Obama’s education reform initiatives, best described the intentions of this spending bill:
“We do the country no favors if we allow the weakness of the economy to strip qualified teachers from our schools, which in turn would result in exploding class sizes and a decline in educational opportunities for children,”
Despite the many positives, Ed Weekly cites that the caveats attached to making this happen came at the expense of other promising programs including improved access to educational opportunities, combating illiteracy among adults and funding more teacher training. This bill also became the catalyst for a showdown between the White House and legislators after President Obama threatened to veto any bill that would mean cuts to federal grant programs like Race To The Top or the Investment in Innovation Fund.
Regardless of those disagreements, public support from groups like the National Governors Association insure that states will overwhelmingly welcome this support during a period of fiscal crisis — and only weeks away from the beginning of a fall semester in which funding questions will almost certainly continue to creep up.