The $787 billion stimulus law President Barack Obama signed last year included a $100 billion bailout for the nation's public schools. Last week, Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Chairman Tom Harkin, the Iowa Democrat, proposed yet another bailout for public schools. This one carries a $23 billion price tag and would cover only the coming school year.
Education Secretary Arne Duncan old Congressional Quarterly there could be "between 100,000 and 300,000 layoffs" in the public schools without Harkin's bailout, which the Obama administration supports.
"We absolutely see this as an emergency," Duncan told The New York Times.
"Emergency" is a political term of art here -- one that could lead to a long-term impact on the future tax bills of Americans. Harkin, according to the Boston Globe, is planning to move his bailout through Congress as an "emergency" spending measure. That means it would be immune from the pay-go rule Congress passed earlier this year that theoretically requires Congress to either raise taxes or cut spending elsewhere to pay for any new spending proposal.
In other words, the $23 billion Harkin wants to hand over to public schools would not come from cutting something somewhere else in President Obama's unprecedented $3.8 trillion fiscal 2011 budget. It would come from new borrowing.
That would be on top of the $9.8 trillion Obama is already planning to borrow over the next 10 years.
Harry Reid, according to Congressional Quarterly, has already agreed to bring Harkin's bailout bill to the floor for a vote.
American should send Harkin, Duncan, Reid and Obama a simple message: no more bailouts for the public schools.
The bottom line is this: American taxpayers have already given too much to our underperforming public schools. If a crunch forces them to permanently restructure, that is a good thing.
Over the past several decades, Americans have paid ever more in taxes to fund public schools that have not improved in their performance.
The Department of Education itself has documented this. In "The Condition of Education 2009" report, published last May, the National Center for Education Statistics revealed that inflation-adjusted per-pupil costs in public elementary and secondary schools rose by 31 percent between the 1989-90 school year and the 2005-2006 school year.