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President Obama says children need teachers in classrooms

Teachers are “the key to our success in today’s global economy”

WASHINGTON - April 29, 2010 -

President Obama publicly encouraged efforts to keep teachers in the classroom, and thanked NEA President Dennis Van Roekel, Sen. Tom Harkin (D-Iowa), and Rep. Leonard Boswell (D-Iowa) for their leadership during a White House ceremony today honoring the 2010 National Teacher of the Year. 

“Recovery efforts must continue as states face budget shortfalls that put hundreds of thousands of jobs at risk,” said President Obama. “Because we need—our children need—those teachers in the classroom.”

In keeping with past recovery efforts under the Administration’s American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (ARRA), Sen. Harkin, chair of the Senate Education Committee, recently introduced the Keep Our Educators Working Act, which would provide $23 billion to extend the already successful State Fiscal Stabilization Fund. According to Sen. Harkin, the bill, cosponsored by more than twenty Senators, would offer a one-year influx of money to fund state and local education jobs.

“As educators continue to face layoffs across the country, we must remember what this means for our students and their futures,” said National Education Association President Dennis Van Roekel. “Massive class sizes, less attention to individual student needs, fewer services—all mean our children won’t receive the education they need. How can we give our children a world class education when teachers and other education personnel are in unemployment lines instead of in classrooms and schools?”

"Education Secretary Arne Duncan has estimated that as many as 300,000 educators across the nation could get pink slips this fall,” Chairman Harkin said.  “Today, as we honor the contributions teachers make - especially teachers like Iowa’s Sarah Brown Wessling, the 2010 National Teacher of the Year – it’s important to realize what these cuts would mean.  Job losses of this magnitude would take a terrible toll on our education system, resulting in bigger class sizes, fewer program offerings and less time for students to learn in school.  The Keep Our Educators Working Act would help keep educators like Sarah Brown Wessling in the classroom.  Kids only get one shot at an education, and it's up to us to make sure it's a good one."

As states struggle with budget shortfalls in preparing 2010-2011 budgets, a devastating number of educators across the country are receiving layoff notices. Hundreds of thousands of teachers and support professionals may not be in classrooms and schools next school year, affecting millions of  students.  In addition, many school districts are being forced to close schools, cut education programs and classes, as well as increase class sizes and shorten the school year or week.

“Sen. Harkin’s bill will save or fund hundreds of thousands of education jobs, and ensure that millions of America’s students will not be penalized or shortchanged because of the nation’s economic woes,” said Van Roekel. “When educators lose their jobs, our children lose too.”

According to figures released by the National Education Association, most states will receive more education funds under the Keep Our Educators Working Act than if they were awarded grants under the administration’s Race to the Top competition.

President Obama named Wessling, an Iowa English teacher, the 2010 National Teacher of the Year. Wessling and the Teacher of the Year finalists were recognized in a White House ceremony that highlighted their contributions to their students and communities. The National Teacher of the Year Program is a project of the Council of Chief State School Officers (CCSSO) with program partners, the University of Phoenix Foundation and People To People Ambassadors Programs. CCSSO is a nationwide, nonprofit organization of public officials who head departments of elementary and secondary education in the states, the District of Columbia, the Department of Defense Education Activity, and five U.S. extra-state jurisdictions.

“Sarah possesses all the qualities of a great teacher, and we are proud that she is an NEA member,” said Van Roekel.  “She is devoted to preparing students for the next stage of their lives, and she is committed to ensuring that all children receive a quality education.  We need to ensure that Sarah and millions of educators like her keep their jobs and continue working hard to make great public schools for every student. We salute her for receiving this prestigious national recognition and for being an outstanding representative of our profession.”

President Obama’s announcement of the Teacher of the Year and his endorsement of education recovery efforts come as the nation prepares to celebrate National Teacher Day, May 4 and Teacher Appreciation Week, May 2-8.

“I also want to take this opportunity to thank all of America’s teachers, who work every day with students of every age, from pre-k through graduate school, for their hard work.  Their enthusiasm and commitment to students makes a positive difference in all our lives. Teachers are among America’s heroes—they motivate and inspire young minds and enable students to achieve extraordinary things,” Van Roekel said.  

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The National Education Association is the nation's largest professional employee organization, representing 3.2 million elementary and secondary teachers, higher education faculty, education support professionals, school administrators, retired educators and students preparing to become teachers.

CONTACT: Celeste Busser  (202) 262-0589,