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Letter to Senate Urging a YES Vote on Cloture for the American Jobs Act

October 07, 2011

Dear Senator:


On behalf of the 3.2 million dedicated members of the National Education Association, we urge you to VOTE YES on cloture for the American Jobs Act (S. 1660), scheduled for a floor vote Tuesday, October 11.  The investments in education included in this bill will jump start the economy, keep educators working, and most importantly, will keep students learning and developing the skills they need to succeed.  Votes associated with this issue will likely be included in the NEA Legislative Report Card for the 112th Congress. 

The need for immediate action is evident in the stories being shared from across the nation: 

Montana -- We have 3 school buildings in our community.  The newest building is our high school, which was built in the late 60's, graduating the first class in 1970.  It now houses grades 7-12.  Our other two buildings are from the late 40's early 50's.  I work in the oldest building.  We have internet, but wiring the building was a real challenge because of its age.  Our preschool room has no bathroom or sink….The walls have cracks, the doors leak, the windows need replacing for more energy efficient use of our heating system. 

Virginia -- My students, 75% of whom are on free or reduced lunch, are unable to provide their own supplies and our school has been unable to supplement these shortcomings in the last few years.  Therefore, it's left to me, their teacher, to provide materials or improvise with inadequate projects and assignments.  My school is also in need of some drastic renovations and repairs.  Due to the steady rain we've recently had, we have a leaking roof and mold issue….It is my students that I care and worry the most about.  They can see the tension, and I feel they believe they receive an education that is less than that provided in more adequately funded schools in neighboring communities.

Missouri -- While I am a retired teacher, I keep tuned in to educational issues here.  Recently, a little girl who I know from church had trouble adjusting to kindergarten.  One of the problems was that the teacher has 27 children in the class.  She simply could not deal with a child that needed a lot of help getting started…..Many classes are overcrowded.  In the older part of one high school, I have seen a class that was so crowded with desks that you could not easily walk through it.  Only one building and parts of a few others are air conditioned….One of our buildings dates back to the Civil War.  Several were built about a hundred years ago and our high schools date from the 1930s and 40s with some newer additions.   

You can read more stories submitted by NEA members on NEA’s Education Votes website.  It is shameful to hear such stories in this country.  We are sending our children a message that they do not matter and are not a priority for the nation.  The American Jobs Act will help address this unacceptable situation by investing in saving and creating hundreds of thousands of educator jobs.  Voting yes on cloture will ensure that our children won’t fall through the cracks, and instead will have the resources they need to succeed in the worldwide economy. 

Investing in public education is also an effective catalyst for economic growth.  It has a greater net positive impact on the economy than any other type of investment, including tax cuts.  When we invest in public education, lower and middle incomes grow even more than upper incomes, positively impacting businesses’ bottom line as lower-income people spend their new income on consumer goods and services.  In a typical state, investing two percent more in public education generates 3,900 new jobs and $92 million in new personal income.  An equal tax cut generates less than half those gains — 1,500 new jobs and $41 million in new personal income.

We also strongly support the bill’s investment of $30 billion in school infrastructure.  Our children deserve manageable class-sizes and modernized and energy-efficient school buildings.  On average, our public schools are more than 40 years old and need hundreds of billions in repairs and upgrades.  Construction and building repair generally create 9,000-10,000 jobs per billion dollars spent.  Eliminating just half the backlog in needed repairs and improvements would, over a period of years, create more than two million much-needed jobs. 

Finally, we support provisions in the American Jobs Act that would create subsidies and incentives to help the eight million Americans who are under water on their mortgages stay in their homes.  Not only does this provide important relief to educators and their families who are struggling to make ends meet, but schools districts will benefit from a strengthened community tax base—the more people who can keep their homes the better it is for local communities.  Many Americans do not realize that forty percent of all education funding is derived from local property taxes, which have taken an enormous hit.  Given the avarice associated with the mortgage industry over the last 10 to 15 years—in the form of predatory lending practices and unchecked Wall Street speculation in this sector—local communities and their school systems have borne the brunt of a housing crisis they didn’t create. 

We believe the American Jobs Act offers an important road map to economic recovery and a strong, competitive workforce for the 21st Century.  Millions of struggling Americans cannot afford to wait any longer.  We urge you to VOTE YES on cloture. 

Sincerely,

Kim Anderson        
Director of Government Relations

Mary Kusler
Manager of Federal Advocacy