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Will Congress bail out education (again)?

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Sen. Tom Harkin (D-Iowa) is sponsoring legislation to extend the education funding provisions in last year's federal stimulus for another year. The measure would provide $23 billion dollars total in additional funding to the states for education, both K-12 and in Higher Ed. The idea being as a bridge loan of sorts in hope that the economy is in better shape next year. The money wouldn't come without strings, however. As happened last year, states that accept the funds would be bound not to cut education funding. New Jersey school districts, and its public colleges and universities face significant revenue shortfalls of Gov. Christie's proposed fiscal year 2011 budget is enacted as presently configured. As readers may call, Rutgers was facing a drastic proposed cut in 2009 from Gov. Corzine, before the stimulus funds bought a lifeline. If enacted, this legislation would allow all parties involved to put off difficult, politically unpalatable decisions off for another year. This issue has dominated New Jersey politics over the past month in the context of cuts in state aids, and municipal negotiations with teachers unions over pay freezes and layoffs. It's best to look on with caution for now, as there are still several likely obstacles in the way. 1. In order to guarantee passage, Congressional Democrats hope to attach the proposal as a rider to an Afghanistan war appropriations bill. Democrats have a majority in both houses of Congress, but I am not familiar with the specific rule minutiae regarding the chances of keeping the provision intact before it gets to the House floor. If it does though, the entire bill is likely to pass. Senate Republicans won't filibuster the broader bill. 2. Given the requirements imposed on states, there's no guarantee that Gov. Christie will sign any funding-restoring budget. However, even considering his current legislative positions, it's hard to imagine Christie vetoing it, and risking constituent wrath over turning down the money. Any hypothetical bill would probably get through the Democratic-majority state legislature, and the parties would then likely reach some sort of compromise. In fact, this would seemingly give Christie wiggle room to get out of his standoff with the NJEA.

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