Diverse Coalition Backs Bill To Save Teaching Jobs

With local school districts expected to cut 275,000 jobs next year due to the continuing poor economy, a coalition of schools interests is backing a House bill designed to keep teachers employed.

About 80 percent of public school districts reportedly will look to cut jobs in 2011 as a result of shriveled tax revenue.

The Learning First Alliance, partnership of 17 education associations, is publicly supporting legislation introduced earlier by Rep. George Miller (D-Calif.), chairman of the House Education and Labor Committee. Miller’s bill, the Local Jobs for America Act, would create a $23 billion Education Jobs Fund to prevent layoffs of teachers, principals and other school staff.

“The need for this relief is urgent as states face unprecedented budget shortfalls that could result in massive job losses in our schools,” the alliance says in a statement. “These job losses would have grave long-term consequences for our nation’s children by swelling class sizes, shrinking curricular options and gutting essential services. We urge swift action on this critical effort to save hundreds of thousands of education jobs.”

Members of the alliance include the American Association of School Administrators, American Federation of Teachers, Council of Chief State School Officers, National Association of Elementary School Principals, National Association of Secondary School Principals, National Association of State Boards of Education, and the National Education Association.

Miller and other bill supporters go further, saying teacher layoffs also would hurt the broader economy. In a statement, the Education and Labor Committee cites Lawrence Mishel of the Economic Policy Institute who estimates that for every 100,000 education jobs lost, 30,000 jobs will be lost in other sectors because of the lost spending by schools and the laid-off educators. A loss of 275,000 education jobs would translate into more than 82,000 job cuts in other industries, the panel says.

Miller’s bill would invest $75 billion directly in local communities to save and create jobs in both the public and private sectors, according to the committee. The measure also includes a $24 billion investment to support 250,000 education-related jobs, including teachers, janitors, cafeteria workers, guidance counselors and principals.

“Teacher layoffs threaten our economic recovery and long-term stability at every level,” Miller says. “Our teachers can’t afford to lose their jobs, our children can’t afford to lose a year of learning, and our nation can’t afford to stall the progress we’ve made to get our economy back on track.”

Robert Reich, labor secretary under President Bill Clinton, supports an emergency infusion of cash in U.S. public schools, according to comments on the Learning First Alliance website.

“We bailed out Wall Street to the tune of $700 billion when Wall Street found itself dangerously broke, and we nursed it back to health. But our public education systems now find themselves dangerously broke and the federal government is not stepping in to provide them a bailout until times improve,” Reich says on the website.

The publisher of the news site On The Hill, Scott Nance has covered Congress and the federal government for more than a decade.

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