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Senate approves funding to keep 140,000 teachers' jobs

Senators approved $10 billion in funding Thursday that will keep 140,000 teachers' jobs. The House, which is being called back from August recess by House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, is expected to approve the funding next week.

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Democratic lawmakers have been pushing for additional education stimulus dollars since last December, and at one point said $23 billion was needed to prevent massive layoffs. Earlier versions would have paid for the jobs funding by adding to the deficit, or by trimming from money already promised for education-reform initiatives through Race to the Top and other competitive grants. The latter idea fell apart when President Obama, in defense of such reforms, threatened a veto.

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The current bill would be paid for by ending an expansion of food-stamp funding in 2014 and by reducing tax credits for multinational companies.

During Senate debate earlier this week, Republican leader Mitch McConnell of Kentucky called the bill “a last-minute effort by Democrats in Washington to funnel more money to the public employee unions before an election.”

But moderate Republicans Olympia Snowe and Susan Collins of Maine voted with Democrats to end a filibuster and allow the bill to move forward for Thursday's Senate vote of 61-39.

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi called on representatives to return from August recess next week to vote on the measure and send it to President Obama, who supports it.

“This investment will save jobs and help prevent districts from shortening the school year, increasing class sizes, and closing libraries in the wake of horrific and damaging budget cuts,” said Rep. George Miller (D) of California, chair of the House committee that oversees education, in a statement today. “While this latest round of funding isn’t enough to avert all layoffs, it is a critical investment in our children and in our future.”

The education money would be distributed to states and districts based on population figures, the proportion of low-income students, and other existing education funding formulae. Preliminary estimates by the Department of Education show amounts ranging from $17.5 million for Wyoming to $1.2 billion to save 13,500 jobs in California.