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Sen. Harkin Introduces Federal Bill to "Keep Our Educators Working"

April 15, 2010

Senator Tom Harkin (D-IA), Chairman of the Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee and of the Senate Appropriations panel that funds education initiatives, introduced federal legislation – the “Keep Our Educators Working” Act on Wednesday.   The bill will create a $23 billion Education Jobs Fund to help keep teachers, principals, librarians and other school personnel on the job as states face crippling budget shortfalls.

Cosponsors of the measure so far include: Senators Begich (D-AK), Bingaman (D-NM), Sherrod Brown (D-OH), Burris (D-IL), Dodd (D-CT), Durbin (D-IL), Gillibrand (D-NY), Lautenberg (D-NJ), Merkley (D-OR), Mikulski (D-MD), Murray (D-WA), Schumer (D-NY) and Stabenow (D-MI).

“This country is about to face a massive wave of layoffs in our schools and institutions of higher learning that could weaken our economic recovery and cause serious damage to our education system,” Senator Harkin said. “This bill is an investment in our kids, in our economy and in our future.”

The Keep Our Educators Working Act would create an Education Jobs Fund modeled after the State Fiscal Stabilization Fund (SFSF) that was established in the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (the ‘Recovery Act’).

The SFSF is currently supporting more than 300,000 education jobs, such as teachers, principals, librarians, and counselors, and is widely credited with mitigating the impact of the recent recession.  However, even with the SFSF, school districts across the country have laid off workers, and the job outlook is worse for the 2010-2011 school year.  Additional resources are needed to help states and districts avoid a “funding cliff” that would result in even more layoffs.

“Recent headlines make the case that two pillars of the American dream – a good job and a good education – are at risk for millions upon millions of our citizens,” Harkin said.  “At this point in our fragile recovery, we need to put Americans back to work educating the next generation, and that’s what this bill does.”

The $23 billion included in the Keep Our Educators Working Act is roughly half of the amount dedicated to state aid in the SFSF, and is equal to the amount passed by the House in its December 2009 jobs legislation.  Funding could be used for:

• Compensation and benefits and other expenses necessary to retain existing employees, and for the hiring of new employees, in order to provide early childhood, elementary, secondary, or postsecondary educational and related services; or

• On-the-job training activities for education-related careers.

To access the full text of the bill, click here.

Source:  Office of Sen. Tom Harkin