Obama administration wants $26 billion for public workers in war bill

"Without swift action, millions of children will experience these budget cuts in one way or another through reductions in class time; cuts to early childhood programs, extra curricular activities, and summer school; and reduced course offerings as teachers are laid off," Duncan wrote in a letter Thursday to Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) and Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.). "These budget cuts would also undermine the groundbreaking reform efforts underway in states and districts all across the country."

The spending bill, which also includes money for disaster assistance, foreign aid and compensation for Vietnam veterans exposed to Agent Orange, was reported out of the Senate Appropriations Committee Thursday with bipartisan support. 

The $33 billion in the bill for the Afghanistan and Iraq wars mirrors the request of the Obama administration. Defense Secretary Robert Gates has told congressional leaders to send the spending bill to the president for his signature by Memorial Day.

The House passed in March a bill providing some of the disaster aid, but it has yet to act on the war spending.

Much of the spending in the bill isn't paid for. Senate Appropriations Committee Chairman Daniel Inouye (D-Hawaii) said some of cost of the bill is offset, but his committee has yet to detail which provisions are paid for.

The $23 billion fund to help teachers keep their jobs was first proposed by Sen. Tom Harkin (D-Iowa). Rep. George Miller (D-Calif.) has a similar measure that calls for $100 billion to help state and local governments retain teachers and other public workers.

Without the teacher fund, states cutbacks could cost as many as 300,000 teachers their jobs, Harkin said.

"This would not only set back our fragile economic recovery, but it could also derail education reform efforts by forcing schools to increase class sizes and cut instructional time," Harkin said in a statement. "This bill will put Americans back to work educating the next generation, and I am glad to have the Administration’s support as we move forward.”

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