They were key to passing economic stimulus, a financial regulatory overhaul and an extension of benefits to the unemployed.

Now, one of the nation’s two largest teachers unions sees U.S. Sens. Susan Collins and Olympia Snowe of Maine as key to its hopes for a $10 billion education jobs bill to stave off thousands of teacher layoffs nationwide.

The National Education Association — whose Maine affiliate, the Maine Education Association, has 25,000 members — is courting Collins and Snowe on the jobs bill as a vote approaches.

The union sent five laid-off teachers, including a Maine music teacher laid off from her job in Poland-based Regional School Unit 16, to Washington, D.C., this week to lobby their states’ senators.

The National Education Association estimates that the $10 billion bill would save 138,000 education jobs. The union says $39 million would go to Maine.

The senators remain undecided on the bill, their spokesmen said this week.