Print this Article

Federal Education Bill Moves Ahead

Senate Approves $10 Billion to Prevent Teacher Layoffs, Pelosi to Call House Back Into Session

August 5, 2010

Senate Democrats managed to advance legislation on Wednesday that would provide states with additional funding for education, Medicaid and other programs – overcoming a Republican filibuster. The $26 billion package passed by Senate Democrats and two Republicans provides $16.1 billion for Medicaid and $10 billion nationwide for local school districts to prevent imminent teacher layoffs.

Attention now turns to the House of Representatives, which is currently on summer break. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi announced “I will be calling the House back into session early next week to save teachers' jobs and help seniors and children." Speaker Pelosi made the announcement in a tweet, in what appeared to be her first news breaking use of Twitter.

In recent decades, the House rarely reconvenes during an August recess. According to the House historian's office, House members returned to Washington in August 2005 to approve emergency funds for the response to Hurricane Katrina.  They also came back during August in 1991 and 1980 to approve various measures.

State Superintendent of Public Instruction Jack O’Connell was quick to praise both House of Representatives Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-San Francisco) and Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) for their persistence in reviving what had appeared to be a failed measure to save tens of thousands of teacher jobs as children return to classrooms across California and the nation.

“I applaud Speaker Pelosi and Senate Majority Leader Reid for their unfailing battle to keep teachers where they can do the most good for our children — in the classroom,” O’Connell said on Wednesday. “Their actions to save $10 billion for state education programs renew hope for thousands of teachers wondering if they can return to their students in the fall.

“The swift, decisive action taken by Speaker Pelosi to call members back into session once the measure was approved in the Senate, underscores just how urgently this funding is needed for our schools,” O’Connell stated. “This is a Marshall Plan air lift for our schools from the federal government, and we’re keeping our fingers crossed that the pilots succeed.”

O’Connell also praised President Barack Obama and U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan. “The President and Secretary never stopped trying to find a way to get this measure through Congress. We are deeply appreciative of their willingness to engage and spend their political capital on behalf of the nation’s school children and teachers.”

O’Connell said he has asked California Department of Education staff to review the latest version of the package to determine what California schools might receive and to take the necessary steps to distribute the funding as quickly as possible should the package gain final approval. “California school funding has been so ravaged over the past few years that we are in the bottom tier in per-pupil spending compared to other states. Should the federal assistance arrive, we hope to reduce the need for steep increases in class size this school year and keep more teachers; it is what parents want and children need.”

Source:  California Department of Education