Ed Jobs bill logjam broken

Throwing critical support to students and educators, the U.S. Senate voted 61-38 on Wednesday, Aug. 4, to move forward on a bill that would save 138,000 educators’ jobs jeopardized by state budget cuts. Two Republicans – though not Massachusetts Senator Scott Brown – crossed party lines to vote in favor of cloture, which ended a filibuster on the bill and sent it to the floor for debate. Sixty votes are needed to approve cloture.

Senator John Kerry, who has been a leader on this issue in the Senate and has been a key supporter of the measure, voted in favor of the move.

 “We want to thank all of the members who contacted Senator Brown in the hopes of persuading him to switch his vote on behalf of students and educators in Massachusetts,” said MTA President Paul Toner. “We especially want to thank Senator Kerry for his leadership. He is a consistent and outspoken supporter of federal funding for public schools and colleges. And we want to thank Governor Deval Patrick for calling on Congress to approve this funding. He has been a leader among state governors in pressing the federal government for financial relief during this recession.”

Toner also thanked MTA member John Lynch, a Brockton teacher who went to Washington, D.C., to lobby for the education jobs funding.

As of this writing, the final bill has not been brought up for a vote. It must be taken up by 5 pm on Thursday, Aug. 5, though it is expected to pass easily since it only needs votes from 51 senators for approval. Senator Brown’s office told MTA at noon that he has not yet publicly announced which way he will vote on the final bill.

“If you haven’t called yet, please keep the heat on Senator Brown’s office at 202-224-4543 and ask him to vote in favor of the final bill,” Toner said. “While you are on the phone, let him know that you are disappointed he did not vote in favor of cloture, since that was where his vote was really needed. The final bill is expected to pass with or without his support.”

The bill contains both $10 billion to save educators’ jobs and $16.2 billion for the Federal Medicaid Assistance Program. The education jobs bill alone will bring $204 million to Massachusetts, and the FMAP funding will bring even more, easing pressure on the budget and enabling the Legislature to restore some of the funding that was cut for this fiscal year.

Maine Senators Olympia Snowe and Susan Collins  were the two who crossed party lines to vote in favor of cloture.

Brown has said in the past he would oppose the measures if they would add to the deficit. According to the NEA, the Congressional Budget Office confirmed on Tuesday that the measures will actually reduce the budget deficit by $1.4 billion over the next decade.

“The educators, students and parents who have fought hard for crucial funding are now one step closer,” NEA President Dennis Van Roekel said. “This bill is fully offset, and will actually reduce the budget deficit over the next ten years.  It’s a no-brainer.”

Van Roekel went on to thank Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nevada) and bill co-sponsors Sens. Patty Murray (D-Wash.) and Tom Harkin (D-Iowa), as well as Sen. Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.), for their steadfast leadership.