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Letter to the Senate Labor-HHS-Ed Appropriations Committee on the Jobs Package

January 20, 2010

Dear Senator:

The National Education Association, representing 3.2 million educators across the nation, would like to offer our views on a jobs package, including needed investments in education, in advance of tomorrow’s hearing on “How to Save and Create Jobs.”  We commend Chairman Harkin and Ranking Member Cochran for holding this timely and critical hearing and look forward to working with the Labor-HHS-Education Appropriations Subcommittee as you move forward on a jobs package. 

Quick Senate action on a jobs package is critical.  State budget outlooks for 2010 and 2011 look bleak, with shortfalls predicted to be as high as $180 billion to $190 billion each year; local budget shortfalls are predicated to be as high as $40 billion each year, according to the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities. These shortfalls, if left unaddressed, could have a devastating impact on schools, students and educators just one year after the ARRA helped save or create 325,000 education jobs.  Governors and state legislatures across the country have already begun to grapple with how to address shortfalls for the next fiscal year, as most are well underway in their FY2011 budget planning process. 

Given the urgent need for federal assistance, NEA strongly supported the Jobs for Main Street Act passed by the House of Representatives in December.  This important legislation represents a critical step in helping stimulate economic recovery, particularly by investing significant dollars into retaining and creating education jobs.  Investment in public education is the best investment for the nation’s economy, in the short run and long run.  The education dollars provided in the Jobs for Main Street Act – both the Education Jobs Fund and school construction bonds – will save or create hundreds of thousands of educator jobs and will provide a critical infusion of funds into struggling communities. 

We urge the Labor-HHS-Education Appropriations Committee to put together a package that, at a minimum, matches the House –passed bill, including provisions that would:

  • Create an Education Jobs Fund that will help states create/save jobs. This Fund will have an immediate impact, as saving an education job involves no wait time to draw up contracts or acquire materials.  It will also help keep schools fully staffed with teachers and education support professionals at a time when many students are experiencing great stress.  A recent University of California study found that children in families where the head of the household had lost a job were 15 percent more likely to repeat a grade.  A January 2010 report from the bipartisan First Focus Campaign for Children found that 1 in 7 children are living with an unemployed parent, nearly a doubling of children in just over two years.  The House bill provided $23 billion to support an estimated 250,000 education jobs over the next two years, but even more is needed to prevent significant job loss. 
  • Create an infrastructure investment program consisting of a dedicated funding stream for school construction and modernization, or a reauthorization of school construction bonds to modernize schools, put Americans to work, and help students learn.
  • Provide increased funding to support the College Work Study program, which supports low- and moderate-income students who work while attending college.  Together with institutional matching funds, the $300 million provided in the House bill will help approximately 250,000 students stay in school.
  • Extend for six months the higher federal match for payments to doctors providing services to low-income families under Medicaid, thereby providing an incentive for states to commit resources to Medicaid while helping ensure services for beneficiaries. 

We urge the Senate to move quickly to pass a jobs package that, at a minimum, includes the critical education funding pieces in the House bill.  We thank you for your consideration of our comments and look forward to working with you on these urgent issues.

Sincerely,

Kim Anderson        
Director of Government Relations