Congress is debating legislation that would provide $10 billion to the states to avoid layoffs for an estimated 140,000 teachers next year. The measure is worth $207 million to Indiana, according to the Education Commission of the States.
But media coverage has focused almost entirely on the standoff between the Obama Administration and House Democrats over where money should come from to pay for the “Edujobs” bill.
The administration threatened a veto because, to help pay for the jobs measure, the House voted to cut spending for some of the administration’s signature education initiatives, including $500 million from the Race to the Top program and lesser amounts from federal Teacher Incentive Fund and Charter Schools programs.
Education Secretary Arne Duncan has been lobbying for the $10 billion teacher-jobs package, but not at the expense of Race to the Top. But House Democrats, especially Appropriations Committee chairman Rep. David Obey of Wisconsin, say cuts have to be made and pet programs can’t be spared.
The fight has set off a pundit and think tank frenzy, with most of the writers outraged that a promising reform program would be cut to save teachers: New York City School Chancellor Joel Klein in the Wall Street Journal, Democratic lawmakers in the Denver Post, and Jonathan Alter in Newsweek,.
Scott Lilly of the Center for American Progress, on the other hand, says Race to the Top is a “new and untested program” that shouldn’t be off-limits to modest cuts. “What is disturbing to me is how those who are parading under the banner of school and teacher accountability are so unwilling to be subjected to accountability standards themselves,” Lilly writes.
Which approach is better for the states — Edujobs or Race to the Top? Education Week suggests two or three states might get more money from Race to the Top. But Indiana won’t get a penny from Race to the Top, at least during the current round of funding. Secretary of Public Instruction Tony Bennett pulled Indiana out of the race for the funds, blaming a lack of support from state teachers’ unions.