02 Aug Ed. Secretary Pushes for Money to Stave off Ohio Teacher Layoffs (OH)August 2, 2010
By: Stephen KoffSource: The Plain Dealer
With the White House’s backing, Senate Democrats on Monday plan to push for a school-aid measure that the Department of Education says would save almost 5,000 teacher jobs in Ohio.
The $10 billion package for education would provide about $362 million for Ohio schools, according to U.S. Education Secretary Arne Dun can.
"You know better than I how tough things are not just around the state but for the Cleveland public schools, with a report the other day that they would be in the hole another $55 million," Duncan said in a telephone interview. "This would just be a huge, huge step in the right direction."
Chances of this measure — an amendment to a House aviation spending bill — passing, however, are in doubt. It could not be determined how Republican U.S. Sen. George Voinovich might vote on a procedural motion expected late Monday that will either move this measure forward or stall it, possibly indefinitely. But Republicans have rebuffed similar legislation to help schools, cities and states retain teachers and firefighters whose job security has been jeopardized by declining local tax revenues during the recession.
The GOP’s opposition is based, among other things, on the contention that last year’s $787 billion economic stimulus bill was supposed to give cities and states the cushion to avoid layoffs amid lower tax collections. Reluctant Republicans say the stimulus effort was poorly designed, did too little to help for the amount spent and resulted in deficit spending.
Democrats say joblessness would be far worse had it not been for the stimulus, formally called the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act.
Senate Democrats say this latest effort to save teachers’ jobs, as well as to enhance state funding for Medicaid services through next June, would be fully paid for by making cuts in other programs. According to the office of U.S. Sen. Sherrod Brown, Democrat of Ohio, they would include returning food stamp benefits in 2015 to their pre-stimulus levels, closing foreign corporate tax loopholes that have been abused, and returning ne arly $8.4 billion from the stimulus bill for programs that no longer need the money.
The newest Senate measure also would force drug companies to cut the costs they charge the government for certain inhalation and injectable drugs not sold through pharmacies.
"We’re trying to stave off an education disaster," Duncan told The Plain Dealer. "We can’t afford to see class sizes skyrocket. We don’t want to see extracurricular and summer school and after-school activities cut. None of this is good for children, none of this is good for education, and none of this is good for the country."
Asked about critics who say schools spent excessively during flush times and now should tighten their belts like everyone else, Duncan said, "Those are very fair questions. The reality, and maybe folks don’t understand, is this is the toughest time in decades. It’s not like the cutting just started yesterday. Most school districts around the country and in Ohio have been cutting for five, six, seven years in a row.
"Is every district in the country 100 percent efficient? Of course not," he said. "But the overwhelming majority of districts are through fat and through flesh and into bone now."