Three cheers for Sen. Tom Harkin (D-Iowa), chair of the Senate Education Committee! As states stimulus monies dry up and states are heading toward a funding cliff, a life preserver is tossed to educators. Sen. Harkins’ Keep Our Educators Working Act would extend stimulus funds by $23 billion for one year. Yes, this preserver is only temporary. But for tens of thousands of teachers awaiting pink slips—something is a whole lot better than nothing at all.
The National Education Association (NEA) is projecting over 150,000 educator layoffs in the next three months! The prospects are frightening. So, Sen. Harkin’s bill is a great start.
Let’s now push for some Wall Street bailout fortitude. A federal commitment to being there for public education. Why? Because it’s too big to fail. Because on the other end of those teacher lay-offs, school closures, stripped down school budgets are some of the nation’s most vulnerable children.
As nicely pointed out by the NEA, this approach is a far cry from the competitive roller coaster ride for Race to the Top Funds. Already the Department of Education is saying that only about 10 to 15 states may share in the remaining $3.4 billion that is estimated to be available. What happens to the rest of the states and the nation’s schools?
Unlike the Race to the Top game, Sen. Harkin’s bill would free already economically traumatized states from having to prove their worthiness for funding. They do not have to devise speedy plans and make unreasonable promises for cash. Instead, in these times of economic recession their worthiness is implied and understood. They are in crisis and their failure is inextricably linked to the well-being of the children they serve—many of whom are children of color; children whose futures are too important for them to fail.