Minnesota’s $1 billion share of the $60 billion school jobs-creation plan that President Barack Obama proposed last week could create more than 10,000 jobs.
The cavalry? Sure — assuming it has enough horsepower to make it past Rep. John Kline, chair of the U.S. House Education and the Workforce Committee, who has already proclaimed his opposition, calling it a “teacher union bailout.”
The state Department of Education received the proposed details of Obama’s plan from the governor’s staff yesterday.
Obama proposed spending $35 billion to prevent the layoff of up to 280,000 teachers — approximately the same number as have lost their jobs since 2008 — to hire tens of thousands more and to preserve police and firefighter jobs. Minnesota would be in line for $504.4 million, which would underwrite up to 6,900 educator and first-responder jobs.
In addition, Obama proposed investing $25 billion in school infrastructure to modernize some 35,000 public schools. Minnesota would receive $274.5 million of those funds, which would create up to an additional 3,600 jobs.
Modernizing at community colleges
The state could also receive $87.8 million for facilities-modernization needs at community colleges, which the Obama administration recognized as “bedrock education institutions” that must be equipped to address current highly technical work-force demands.
Minnesota could also receive about $101 million to pay construction workers to rehab vacant and foreclosed homes and businesses, as well as — wait for it — funds that would be available through a competitive application.
Unlike other stimulus programs and education initiatives created by the current administration, with very small exceptions Minnesota would not have to compete for the money, would not have to agree to reforms favored by Obama and would get the money even if state funds are slashed.
Skepticism about passage
Beltway pundits aren’t convinced the proposal isn’t already DOA, given the GOP’s vow to cut government jobs, not create them. Some called last week’s announcement a campaign speech, while others suggested that the only way Obama will get Kline & Co. to agree to the money is as part of a bipartisan “superdeal.”
It’s easy to assume that what’s at stake is class sizes and reform initiatives — and those are real issues for schools — but Minnesota administrators are also acutely aware of the role educators play in the state’s economy. Modest paychecks notwithstanding, teachers spend money on food, housing and even the occasional vacation.
A year ago, when the extent of this year’s bloodletting was suspected by the gloomiest doomsayers among us, school districts were banking their education stimulus funds in anticipation of exactly the “funding cliff” most now face.
Anoka-Hennepin Superintendent Dennis Carlson told MinnPost then that between 2010 and 2013, his district would need to find $100 million, or 25 percent of its budget, to cut, which likely means laying off 500 to 700 teachers.
“We’re the largest employer in Anoka County,” he said. “The economic ripple over the next three years is huge.”