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August 2, 2010

1) Coming Up Next: $5 Million Campaign to Reauthorize ESEA. For most of this year, NEA has devoted the lion's share of its manpower and resources to passing an edujobs bill. The union called on all its champions in Congress and sought to have the measure attached to any possible legislative vehicle. The fact that it will come up for a vote today after being declared dead several times in the past few weeks is a testament to NEA's dogged determinism to preserve its membership base.

Win, lose or draw, the union is already moving on its next item of business: reauthorization of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA). NEA is adamantly opposed to the Obama administration's "blueprint" for reauthorization and wants to substitute its own "positive agenda."

To that end, NEA has allocated $5 million from its Ballot Initiative and Legislative Crises fund to pay for its efforts this year and next. The first public evidence of the campaign will be the organizing of a "day of action" in each state between August 7 and September 12.

There doesn't seem to be much enthusiasm for placing ESEA reauthorization at the top of the congressional agenda, but we didn't think we would still be writing about edujobs in August either. This is more than a battle over bits of legislation. This is NEA's struggle for relevancy, and the union will commit itself entirely to it.

2) Food for Thought. Remember the outrage a few weeks ago when Rep. David Obey revealed that the Obama administration suggested cutting food stamps rather than Race to the Top spending? Valerie Strauss of the Washington Post called it "peculiar -- not to mention inappropriately stubborn."

That's old news. Today the Senate will vote on Harry Reid's $10 billion edujobs amendment, which will mostly be offset by... $6.7 billion in cuts to food stamps. Ezra Klein of the Washington Post tells us, "Budget rhetoric is full of easy choices, but budgets are about hard choices, and this is a hard, and ugly, choice."

I've checked the NEA web site, and there are a lot of calls to action, and boasting of the number of calls flooding the Senate switchboard, but no mention of the fact that the union is demanding good liberals lobby and vote to cut the food stamp budget. How does NEA get a free pass on this?

3) Alabama District Spending Tables Posted. Slow going, but I managed to post the school district enrollment, staffing, spending and compensation statistics for each of Alabama's 131 school districts.

As we progress through the summer, I'll do the same for each state as I finish it, in alphabetical order (sorry, Wyoming).

4) Last Week's Intercepts. EIA's blog, Intercepts, covered these topics from July 27-August 2:

*  Today's Edujobs Marching Orders from NEA. Grasstops?

Doesn't Look Like Obama Will Back Down. Apparently he didn't need NEA's confidence in Race to the Top.

It's a Short Walk for March on Washington. The kids march on the candy store.

Oklahoma: Where the News Is Makin' Lazy Circles in the Sky. Why bloggers get upset with the press.

Harder to Fire a Teacher Than Get Her Out of Prison. One reason Alabama needs edujobs money.

5) Quote of the Week. "You will literally be fired, whoever you are. You must spend this money. If your school district or state is not in a budget crisis, then that is excellent news for you. Most of you are, and we're trying to help you make sure you maximize those dollars in the best way possible. They simply must be used. They were passed by Congress during an economic crisis, and it is your obligation as stewards of taxpayer dollars to spend it wisely, appropriately and in any way possible to help defray the budget crunch a lot of you are facing." - Maura Policelli, U.S. Department of Education's senior advisor for external affairs, describing what will happen to school officials who don't spend their stimulus money by the end of next year. (July 27 Thompson)


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