This morning, the U.S. Senate voted to move forward on a bill that would save 138,000 educators’ jobs jeopardized by state budget cuts.
By a vote of 61-38, senators voted for cloture, which allows debate on legislation containing $10 billion for education jobs funding to proceed.
Maine Sens. Olympia Snowe and Susan Collins crossed party lines to vote in favor of the motion, on behalf of the nation’s public school children.
‘The educators, students and parents who have fought hard for crucial funding are now one step closer,’ NEA President Dennis Van Roekel said. ‘This bill is fully offset, and will actually reduce the budget deficit over the next ten years. It’s a no-brainer.’
He went on to thank Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nevada) and bill co-sponsors Sens. Patty Murray (D-Wash.) and Tom Harkin (D-Iowa)), as well as Sen. Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.), for their steadfast leadership. He also applauded Sens. Snowe and Collins, ‘for not allowing partisan roadblocks to stand in the way of what students need.’
The Senate also defeated by a vote of 61-38 an attempt by Sens. Judd Gregg (R-N.H.) and Lamar Alexander (R-Tenn.) to further stall the bill with a procedural tactic, claiming that the legislation added to the federal deficit, despite the fact that the Congressional Budget Office reported that the legislation would reduce the deficit by over $1 billion in the next 10 years.
Sen. Murray chastised Republicans, including Gregg and Alexander, for attempting to throw up yet another set of roadblocks to the legislation, based on ideology, not what’s best for children.
‘It’s not about the teachers’ unions’¦ this is about making sure our kids aren’t hurt in this tough economic time,’ Murray said.
According to a National Education Association analysis, the fund will preserve the jobs of approximately 138,000 educators. Both the education jobs funding and the FMAP extension are fully offset, The Congressional Budget Office confirmed yesterday that H.R. 1586 will actually reduce the budget deficit by $1.4 billion over the next decade.
Sen. Charles Schumer (D-N.Y.) called the legislation crucial and said it should not be held hostage by partisan concerns.
‘It is the right thing to do,’ he said. ‘And maybe just this once we will rise to the occasion in a bipartisan way.’
Following 30 hours of floor debate which will also include debate on the Supreme Court nomination of Elena Kagan the Senate will make an up or down vote on the bill. That could come as early as today though if time is yielded back during the debate.
The significance of the coming cloture vote weighed on Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nevada) as he took to the Senate floor earlier this week to implore his colleagues to do what is right for the nation’s public school students.
Teachers ‘are not the only ones who lose out when they lose their jobs,’ Reid said. ‘We also need to think about the scores of students they teach, mentor, help and inspire. When we vote to save teachers’ jobs we’re also voting for our students’ future.’
Reid said the loss of the jobs, ‘would be tragic especially considering we have the ability to prevent it.’
He added that the Senate, divided so often in recent weeks and months, must ‘come together this afternoon and show the country that all senators share at least one basic belief: That we must do all we can to make sure our children have teachers in their classrooms.’
In doing so, they would have the backing of thousands of public education supporters nationwide continuing to jam U.S. Senate phone lines and email systems with support for education jobs. Since Thursday, more than 380,000 phone calls and emails went from public education supporters to members of the Senate.
Roughly $10 billion in funding for the jobs is included in H.R. 1586, a House-passed bill coming to the Senate this week. The Senate must first vote for cloture today, which clears the way for a vote on the bill and any amendments.
Many parents and students return to schools across this country in just a few weeks and they’ll find class sizes of 40, four-day school weeks, no after school programs, and fewer course selections.
The U.S. House in July passed a version of the bill now before the Senate, allocating $10 billion for education jobs. But the Senate must approve a similar version in order for the jobs to be saved.
Supporters are this week calling 1-866-608-6355, urging their senators to pass the bill including the education jobs funding.
Recently, Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) blocked a Senate effort to vote on the education jobs fund. Victims were the millions of American school children who are certain to feel the pinch from an estimated 300,000 teachers, bus drivers, custodians, counselors, and other essential school staff who may not return to work for the coming school year if the education jobs fund does not pass.
Furthermore, the loss of this number of jobs in communities will lead to a ripple effect of an additional 90,000 private sector jobs being lost, according to economic analysis.
NEA and a coalition of more than 180 education and community groups continue to push for a real, unobstructed vote on the education jobs fund in the Senate. The White House, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-CA), and Reid have all expressed their desire to pass this critically needed legislation before Congress leaves for recess.
To thank Senators who voted yes, and express your disappointment to those who voted against saving education jobs click here.