The Senate blocked a part of President Obama's jobs plan on Thursday that would have provided $30 billion to retain and hire new teachers. The Senate voted 50-50 to bring the bill to the Senate floor—10 votes shy of the 60 needed to stop a filibuster.
The defeated part of the legislation was designed to protect the jobs of some 280,000 K-12 educators who were in danger of being laid off and to hire new teachers, especially those teaching science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM), according to a White House press release. The bill also included $5 billion to pay firefighters and police officers.
[Learn more about the defeated jobs bill.]
Democratic Majority Leader Sen. Harry Reid blasted Republicans, who voted down the bill.
"Republicans unanimously blocked a bill that would have kept 400,000 teachers in the classroom and first responders on the job because they refuse to ask millionaires to pay their fair share," he said in a statement. "This bill would have created jobs by keeping our communities safe and ensuring that our children continue to have access to a high-quality education."
Obama said in a statement that the Republican votes were "unacceptable."
"For the second time in two weeks, every single Republican in the United States Senate has chosen to obstruct a bill that would create jobs and get our economy going again," he said.
Republican Sen. Mitch McConnell of Kentucky said at a press conference that the bill is a "proposal to raise taxes on 300,000 business owners in order to send money down to states so they don't have to lay off state employees," and that the money would "have to be paid back by future generations."
Teacher layoffs have become a reality in many states as local districts try to balance budgets. California passed a law that required state districts to keep teacher numbers level for this school year after some 30,000 teachers lost their jobs over the past several years. Early this year, the Austin school district laid off 1,153 employees, including 571 teachers, and Milwaukee Public Schools let go of 354 teachers in June. About 7,500 teachers have been laid off in New York this year.
Obama has made a priority of hiring new teachers, especially in STEM subjects. The president said in his 2011 State of the Union address that he wants the United States to recruit 100,000 new STEM teachers over the next 10 years.
A June study by the National Center for Education Statistics found qualified teacher shortages in those subjects. About 30 percent of public high school chemistry and physics teachers in the country, for instance, don't have degrees or certifications to teach those subjects.