THE DIFFERENCE BETWEEN WALL STREET AND SCHOOL TEACHERS…. It’s been a little under the radar this week, but a key policy dispute is unfolding over federal aid to prevent teacher layoffs.

As states and municipalities continue to struggle with budget shortfalls, schools are being forced to let teachers go. Last year’s stimulus bill saved over 400,000 teaching jobs, but it’s a new year, and it will take another effort to prevent a massive number of teacher layoffs.

Estimates vary, but my accounts, we’re talking about 100,000 to 300,000 job losses in public schools nationwide.

Democratic policymakers hope to do just that. Sen. Tom Harkin (D-Iowa) and Rep. George Miller (D-Calif.) are, with the White House’s enthusiastic support, pushing the Keep Our Educators Working Act, which calls for $23 billion in emergency support to preserve these education jobs.

Yesterday, House Minorty Leader John Boehner (R-Ohio) announced his position on the legislation. Care to guess what he thinks? Yep, he’s pro-layoff.

“The American people recognize that Washington’s out-of-control spending is hurting our economy and stifling job creation, and they’re asking their elected leaders to make tough choices on fiscal responsibility. Unfortunately, the Administration’s call for another $23 billion to pad the education bureaucracy will only make state governments more dependent on the federal government and more vulnerable when the federal funding explosion disappears. […]

“Giving states another $23 billion in federal education money simply throws more money into taxpayer-funded bailouts when we should be discussing why we aren’t seeing the results we need from the billions in federal dollars that are already being spent.”

Whether Boehner actually believes his own press releases is a matter worthy of debate, but either way, his arguments seem oddly detached from reality. Spending is “hurting our economy and stifling job creation”? In Grown-Up Land, spending rescued the economy and generated the strongest job creation in years.

Just as importantly, what does Boehner think the economic impact will be if 300,000 school teachers are forced from their jobs nationwide?

Of course, notice Boehner’s emphasis on this being a “bailout” — a line Fox News is running with. As Republicans see it, emergency aid to prevent teacher layoffs must necessarily be connected in the public’s mind with rescuing Wall Street with TARP.


Doug Thornell, a spokesperson for DCCC Chairman Chris Van Hollen (D-Md.), said in a statement, “Yesterday, job-killing House Republicans blocked a bipartisan plan that would help get more Americans back to work. Today, it appears John Boehner and House Republicans want to stand in the way of important funds that would help save teachers’ jobs. It is unbelievable that John Boehner, who begged his Conference to support Bush’s bailout of Wall Street banks, has the nerve to use teachers and children as pawns in his cynical game to regain the trust of the right wing of his party.”

Well, perhaps “unbelievable” is the wrong word — it’s actually sadly predictable — but the rest of Thornell’s sentiment sounds about right.

Steve Benen

Follow Steve on Twitter @stevebenen. Steve Benen is a producer at MSNBC's The Rachel Maddow Show. He was the principal contributor to the Washington Monthly's Political Animal blog from August 2008 until January 2012.