War Spending Bill Won’t Pay for Teachers’ Jobs

The White House has successfully intimidated the Senate into passing the bill without $10 billion for teachers' jobs and other domestic spending.

By Julianne Hing Jul 23, 2010

Late Thursday night, the White House successfully intimidated the Senate into passing its war-spending bill without $10 billion for teachers’ jobs and other domestic spending that the House included weeks ago.

Part of the money inside the war-spending bill was meant to go to an emergency fund to stave off over 100,000 imminent teacher and school worker layoffs this coming fall. The resolution, introduced by Rep. David Obey from Wisconsin, would have also set aside an extra $5 million for Pell Grants, which are distributed to undergrads from low-income families. In order to pay for this $10 billion emergency fund, which itself was whittled down from an original $23 billion, Obey suggested shaving off a total of $800 million from some of President Obama’s pilot education reform initiatives like the competitive grants program Race to the Top, a charter school fund and a new program that ties teachers’ pay to their students’ performance.

Earlier this week, the possibility that the Senate would include the $60 billion in domestic spending for social programs seemed unlikely ("dead" was the actual word used by some education policy bloggers) after President Obama announced a veto threat for any program that touched his flagship education reform agenda and a suite of Democrats backed Obama against David Obey. Obama administration officials reiterated the threat again last week.

Except that Obama’s Race to the Top program was allocated $4.35 billion for this year alone, and got renewed again for 2011, even though it’s still got more than $3.6 billion in unused funds. In light of the numbers, dipping into Race to the Top’s coffers to pay for students to have teachers in their classrooms this fall seems like a relatively painless and logical step. The big picture remains that a last-ditch effort to save teacher jobs had to be shoved in at the last moment for a $33 billion supplemental war-spending bill to keep the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq going.

The jettisoned domestic spending package wasn’t all going to go to social programs. NPR reports that another $700 million that would have gone to bolster border security measures didn’t make the cut either. Unlike teachers jobs’ though, we can’t say Americans will notice the absence of that extra money at the already-flush and heavily militarized border.

The bill will now go back to the House, which will have just a few weeks to pass it before they go on August recess.

PHOTO: KANSAS CITY, MO – Students prepare to leave on school buses from Westport High School on March 11, 2010 in Kansas City, Missouri. The High School is among 29 in a district of 61 schools that will close due to the new budget plan that is making the cuts to ward off bankruptcy. (Photo by G. Newman Lowrance/Getty Images)