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Letter to the Senate on the Jobs Package

February 05, 2010

Dear Senator:


The National Education Association, representing 3.2 million educators across the nation, would like to express our support for essential elements of the Senate leadership’s proposed jobs package that will save and create jobs, assist struggling communities and families, and stimulate further economic recovery.  We urge the Senate to act quickly to pass these important proposals.  In addition, we urge support for an amendment to the package, to be offered by Senator Rockefeller, that would extend the increased federal Medicaid match for six months. Votes associated with these issues may be included in the NEA Legislative Report Card for the 111th Congress. 

We are particularly pleased that the proposed jobs plan includes aid to states to retain and hire public employees, including educators, police, and firefighters. These provision are particularly critical and timely.  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. Our nation’s economy simply cannot afford to lose many of these jobs, nor can our students afford to lose teachers and education support professionals. In fact, it would be counterproductive to an economic recovery if state and local governments are forced to lay off public employees. 

Saving and creating education jobs is a particularly effective way to jumpstart economic recovery.  Saving an education job involves no wait time to draw up contracts or acquire materials. An education jobs fund that would extend state stabilization aid has already proven effective and played a key role in helping to keep middle class Americans working.  It will help put more faculty into higher education classrooms, including  those at community colleges (where enrollments have increased as much as 40-50 percent,) so that students can get the education they need to get back to work.   It will also help keep schools fully staffed with pre-k through post-secondary 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. 

We also strongly support proposals to invest in school infrastructure – both bonds to finance school infrastructure projects as well as a school modernization grant program.  Such investments will put Americans to work by creating jobs across the construction industry, and help students learn in safe, modern facilities.  

We urge support for an amendment to be offeed by Senator Rockefeller that would extend for six months the higher federal match for payments to doctors providing services to low-income families under Medicaid.  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.   An FMAP extension will provide an incentive for states to commit resources to Medicaid while helping ensure services for beneficiaries.  In addition, it will relieve some of the current budget pressures that would otherwise force additional cuts to education and healthcare services.  

We commend the Senate leadership for proposing a jobs package that will boost the economy and put Americans back to work.  We urge the Senate to move quickly to pass all the components of this urgent package. 

Sincerely,

Kim Anderson        
Director of Government Relations