UPDATED: Weingarten Accuses Ed. Dept. of Protecting 'Pet Programs'
The feisty president of the American Federation of Teachers, Randi Weingarten, called this morning to give me an earful about the debate on Capitol Hill over the $10 billion edujobs fund.
As my colleague Alyson Klein reported extensively yesterday, some of those dollars would be funded by offsetting appropriations for the Teacher Incentive Fund and the Race to the Top. Now, Weingarten is furious that the Department of Education wants to preserve those programs.
"The department was all for saving jobs until it was their pet programs or pet projects that have to share in some of the pain," she said. "I'm very upset. You have an immediate, well- documented harm to children, because of budget cuts. Everyone's been trying to talk about that. All of a sudden, Congress was forced to come up with offsets, and [Rep. David] Obey did and made sure nobody was insulated, and you have this hew and cry."
To be clear, the AFT preferred the former, $23 billion version of the jobs bill that did not raid other pots of education funds. But with that bill no longer an option, the union supports the bill Rep. Obey has advanced.
Weingarten noted that continuation grants aren't touched under these proposals, nor are formula programs like Title I. The programs slated for cuts "are limited pots of money, they're not going to be spread evenly, whereas the education jobs fund goes to all states and all districts," she said.
Her union, as Alyson reported, is opposing an effort by some moderate Democratic lawmakers, like Rep. Jared Polis, D-Colo., to get the administration to seek cuts elsewhere, fearing it might derail the edujobs bill.
Clarification: While the AFT doesn't support Rep. Polis' efforts to exempt the three discretionary programs Obey identified, it's actually OK with seeking cuts to other programs, union officials tell me.
Now, the question is if, or whether, there are other offsets under consideration. Check Politics K-12 for breaking updates.