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Pay no attention to the people behind the curtain

Tuesday, April 20, 2010

The next bailout

by folkbum

I just wrapped a story for May's Bay View Compass on how MPS schools are being squeezed by this year's extra-tight budgets--chronic state underfunding, chronic federal underfunding, declining property values, state cuts to SAGE, unresolved labor issues have all added up to pretty much every single school in the district losing staff and programs. Even schools I talked to that plan to enroll significantly more students this fall still cut staff.

So I like Tom Harkin's plan:
As public schools nationwide face larger class sizes and cuts in programs, the Senate's leading Democrat on education issues proposed a $23 billion bailout Wednesday to help avert layoffs of tens of thousands of teachers and other school personnel in the coming academic year.

The bill sponsored by Sen. Tom Harkin (Iowa), a potential sequel to the economic stimulus law enacted last year, joins the mix of spending initiatives the Democratic-led Congress will consider this spring on issues such as aid to small business and appropriations for the war in Afghanistan. [. . .] Education Secretary Arne Duncan estimated that school layoffs could total from 100,000 to 300,000 unless Congress acts.
This will no doubt be painted by Republicans as a giveaway to the teachers unions (they really need to open up new lines of talking point exploration; the current ones are quite worn) and opposition will no doubt be unanimous on their end.

However, this is the kind of investment worth making. Unlike, say, tax cuts for individuals or even businesses, studies show that direct aid to state and local governments (like schools) provide a greater return, long-term, than the funds invested. Keeping schools stocked with teachers--not just for small class sizes or whatever, but for things like music and art--is smart public policy and good for America's soul. I say, bring on the bailout.

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