Even after receiving billions of dollars in stimulus funds, many states and local education agencies (LEA) across the country are projecting massive budget shortfalls for the 2010-11 school year. Many LEAs are looking at budget cuts for next school year that include huge numbers of layoffs of teachers and other staff. The number of education jobs that will be lost is estimated at 100,000 to 300,000 nationwide. LEAs are also cutting school programs, increasing class size, and some states are proposing to go as far as shortening the school week or school year in order to save money.
On April 14, 2010 U.S. Senator Tom Harkin of Iowa introduced an emergency spending bill that would establish a $23 billion Education Jobs Fund modeled after the State Fiscal Stabilization Fund included in the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009 (ARRA). The $100 billion allocated to education programs by ARRA are rapidly running out and, with state and local financial support also evaporating due to the U.S. economic recession, LEAs are forced to cut services and jobs. Senator Harkin’s bill (S.3206) is intended to help LEAs retain existing staff members and hire new ones to provide education services to students at the pre-k, k-12, or postsecondary education level.
On the same day that the bill was introduced U.S. Education Secretary Arne Duncan appeared before the Senate Appropriations Committee, chaired by Senator Harkin, and emphasized the dire need for additional education funding for the 2010-11 school year. Although Secretary Duncan did not go so far as to endorse the bill, he and Senator Harkin agreed that Congress will need to act quickly to avoid layoffs that are scheduled to go into effect before the end of this school year. The bill had 14 co-sponsors as of April 14; however is unclear whether there will be the all-important bipartisan support necessary to ensure quick passage of the bill.