Letter to the Senate in Support of the Smaller Jobs Package
February 22, 2010
On behalf of the National Education Association’s (NEA) 3.2 million members, we urge you to vote yes on a motion to limit debate on H.R. 2847, the Jobs for Main Street Act, scheduled for floor debate today. This smaller jobs bill represents an important first step in providing essential resources to create/save jobs and jumpstart the economy. We urge the Senate to pass this bill, followed by quick action on additional urgently-needed pieces of a jobs package.
We are pleased that H.R. 2847 as proposed by Senator Reid includes funding for school modernization in the form of an extended and improved Build America Bonds program. This program, originally authorized under the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act, is very efficient and cost effective for state and local governments, and demand for it is high. For example, in California school districts applied for school construction bonds to cover $3.7 billion in projects. However, the state received only $700 million in bond allocations. Similarly, Tennessee has received requests for $305 million against its $121 million allocation. Investments in school infrastructure help put Americans back to work by creating jobs across the construction industry, and help students learn in safe, modern facilities.
However, school modernization investments are just one piece of a broader strategy needed to create/save jobs and boost economic recovery. State budget outlooks are bleak, with shortfalls predicted to be as high as $180 billion to $190 billion in 2010 and 2011. 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.
Given these critical needs, we strongly urge the Senate to pass immediate state fiscal relief as part of an unemployment insurance/COBRA health insurance extension package. In particular, we urge passage of:
- State assistance to create/save public sector jobs, including an Education Jobs Fund. 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. Earlier this month, Christina Romer, head of President Obama's Council of Economic Advisers, stated that fiscal relief to states under the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act has been "one of the triumphs" and has had "more bite than we would have thought." This observation coming from the CEA Chair affirms the the economic value to the nation of this aid and reinforces the need to continue such assistance through an Education Jobs Fund.
An Education Jobs Fund 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.
- A six month extension of the higher federal match to states for payments to doctors providing services to low-income families under Medicaid (FMAP). 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.
Again, we urge passage of H.R. 2847, followed by immediate action on these other critical priorities.
Director of Government Relations