UPDATED: To Fund Edujobs Bill, Dems Would Cut Performance Pay
Politics K-12 has the potentially explosive news that House Democrats want to rescind money from several of the Obama administration's key reform programs, including the federal Teacher Incentive Fund, in order to help finance $10 billion to preserve education jobs. TIF supports local performance-based compensation systems for educators. Other programs they're eyeing include the Race to the Top Fund and a charter school innovation
The important implication here is that congressional Dems, and especially David Obey, the chairman of the House Appropriations Committee, aren't on board with the direction Obama and Education Secretary Arne Duncan are moving in education reform. Obey, in a hearing earlier this year, clearly telegraphed that he thought preserving jobs was more important than advancing reform.
Some folks are wondering if this is even legal. But my understanding, and please write in to let us know if this isn't correct, is that as long as discretionary funding isn't actually obligated or disbursed to a grantee, it's well within Congress' purview to yank it back. And we know from past experience with TIF that appropriators do pay attention to what agencies spend. Back in 2006-07, the Education Department dawdled in obligating its first TIF dollars, and appropriators refused to give the fund any more until the first batch was out the door.
The big winner in this situation? The teachers' unions, who have been pushing for an education jobs fund and have found lots to criticize in TIF, the Race to the Top, and charter schools. Cynics will no doubt claim that House Dems, in addition to putting a big "Kick Me" sign on Arne Duncan's back, are engaging in bit of pre-election pandering to the unions.
UPDATE: AFT officials say that while they support the bill, the union preferred the earlier $23 billion proposal that didn't cut TIF or RTT. The union did not know in advance which programs would be offset.
All of this still has a long legislative path to navigate before it's enacted. First, the proposal must make it through the Rules Committee, and then past the House floor and the Senate.
But no matter what happens, it's a sign that there's trouble in edu-paradise.