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Officials still holding out hope for $23 billion federal jobs bill

The mayor’s decision to freeze teacher, principal and administrators’ wages for two years is final — but maybe not really final.

Speaking to reporters yesterday, Chancellor Joel Klein offered two possible ways to bring back planned raises. Albany could come through with a less austere final budget than the one the governor has proposed. Also, Klein said, he still hopes that Congress will pass a $23 billion teacher jobs bill that has been staggering its way through the legislative process.

After being dropped in the Senate, the bill stalled in the House last week, mired in the politics of deficit spending. But lobbyists and officials from the U.S. Department of Education and national teachers unions, including American Federation of Teachers president Randi Weingarten, told Politics K-12’s Michele McNeil that they are still confident that lawmakers will revive the measure.

If passed, the White House projects that the bill would fund 16,000 New York State teacher jobs and Klein has said it would bring the city $400 million — the same amount that the city had budgeted for 2 percent teacher raises and now plans to use to fill its budget hole and avoid layoffs.

One problem is that without a final bill, it’s not clear how exactly the funds would be used. Yesterday, Klein said the city would be eligible for the funds even if layoffs don’t happen. And in response to a question about whether the funds might be used to restore raises, city spokeswoman Ann Forte said today that the city would be open to discussions.