Obama urges House to pass emergency funding for teachers
Tuesday, August 10, 2010; 12:14 PM
President Obama urged House lawmakers to pass emergency funding for teachers Tuesday, saying the government spending is essential to avoid a new round of layoffs at schools across the country.
Flanked by Education Secretary Arne Duncan and two teachers in the Rose Garden, Obama said the spending measure being considered by the House of Representatives will help to save the jobs of 160,000 teachers nationwide.
"We can't stand by and do nothing while pink slips are given to the men and women who educate our children and keep our communities safe," Obama said.
The measure is the last in a flurry of activities by the Democratic Congress before adjourning for good for the rest of the summer. The Senate passed the measure last week and the House returned from its break to take it up.
The $26 billion bill would also provide assistance to states in the form of increased Medicaid payments that officials say could help prevent layoffs of other public-sector employees like police officers.
Obama is eager to show that he is doing everything possible to prevent job losses as his party faces a difficult election this fall.
"It will help states avoid laying off police, firefighters, nurses, and first responders," the president said. "This should not be a Democratic problem or a Republican problem. It should be an American problem."
Obama said the legislation will not add to the nation's deficit because the money is offset by savings from tax loopholes that would be closed. He criticized Republicans who call the bill a "special interest" measure, saying that the special interests that benefit are teachers.
But even before Obama spoke, Republicans tried to cast the latest legislative drive by the Democrats as another government bailout that will do little to stimulate growth in the private economy.
"Everyone knows that state budgets have been hit hard and no one wants teachers to lose their jobs," House Minority Leader John Boehner (R-Ohio) said in a statement. "But where do the bailouts end? The American people are fed up with the Democrats' 'stimulus' spending and they certainly don't want another job-killing tax hike on U.S. job-creators."
Boehner spokesman Michael Steel said that much of the education money in last year's stimulus bill remains unspent. And he predicted that the new measure could make the situation worse by allowing states to add new teachers without the long-term finances to pay them.
Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) said in a statement, "Here we are, a year and a half later into the Democrat economy, and some in Washington are already coming back for tens of billions more. It's time to change course, it's time to do something that will actually create lasting private sector jobs and get us moving in the right direction."