May 31, 2010
In April, Senator Tom Harkin (D-IA) introduced the Keep Our Educators Working Act of 2010 –cosponsored by Senator Patty Murray and 28 other Democratic Senators. The legislation provided for $23 billion to be distributed to governors to save or create K-12 and higher education jobs. According to the formula in the bill, the State of Washington would receive $478.3 million –roughly 6,500 jobs .
Senator Harkin sought to attach the jobs provisions to a supplemental appropriations bill that is currently moving through Congress, primarily for military operations and disaster relief. However, efforts to include the education provisions in the Senate version have ceased, as there are not 60 votes present to move forward. Several Democratic Senators, including Washington’s Maria Cantwell, and the entire Republican caucus have expressed concerns that the education provisions would add to the deficit.
On the House side, the Democratic majority appears to be moving forward to include the $23 billion figure in their supplemental spending bill. To the dismay of the higher education community, the House version of the legislation is likely to direct funding for education jobs solely to K-12 as well as mandate that states maintain their K-12 funding levels for an additional year past what is provided in the Recovery Act –potentially at the expense of higher education. UW and the higher education community are working with House members to modify the proposed language. One positive step taken in the draft House supplemental is the inclusion of $5.67 billion to sure-up the Pell Grant program. Further developments will take place after the Memorial Day congressional recess.