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Letter to the Senate on Cloture on the Teachers and First Responders Back to Work Act

October 20, 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 Teachers and First Responders Back to Work Act (S. 1723), scheduled for a floor vote this week.  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 situation in schools across the nation is unacceptable, as layoffs and budget cuts create ballooning class sizes and elimination of programs that help students succeed.  We are sending our children a message that they do not matter and are not a priority for the nation.  When educators lose their jobs, students lose too.  When school began this fall, fewer dedicated professionals were there to greet and care for them — fewer teachers, teachers’ aides, librarians, bus drivers, food service workers, counselors, and nurses. 

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

Virginia -- Our kindergartners attend a half day program, which is not adequate.  As a fourth grade teacher I see children, who by the time they reach me, are a full year or two behind in reading.  Having a full-time schedule would allow kindergartner teachers the opportunity to teach reading more in-depth.  Now more than ever, teachers need additional support within the classroom. Supply budgets barely cover the cost of teaching for a month. I am allowed ten dollars a student for the entire year!  Education funding needs to be a priority if we are to be competitive in the world market.  Thank you for the opportunity to let me express my opinion.

Connecticut -- They have slashed art, music, industrial arts (wood shop, auto shop and film technology), business education, and other programs at our high school.  Some of the teachers were let go.  We have barely any electives for our students….Please stop asking teachers to raise test scores when we have little incentives to give our students to enjoy coming to school. 

Massachusetts -- I have been a special education teacher for 36 years.  It saddens me deeply to confront increasingly needy children with increasingly fewer personnel.  First we lost the vice principals, doubling our principal’s responsibilities.  Then it was half as many counselors…Now counselors get to double their caseloads….Next it was ALL remedial services and then paraprofessional help, those vital adults who support the classroom teacher’s growing duties.  So one adult alone was responsible for teaching 20 six-year-olds to read, write, solve math problems, perform science experiments, and how to be a cooperative member of a community of learners.

You can read more stories submitted by NEA members on NEA’s Education Votes website.  The First Responders Back to Work 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 believe the First Responders Back to Work Act offers an important road map to economic recovery and a strong, competitive workforce for the 21st Century.  Millions of struggling schools and students cannot afford to wait any longer.  We urge you to VOTE YES on cloture of S. 1723. 

Sincerely,

Kim Anderson        
Director, Center for Advocacy

Mary Kusler
Manager, Federal Advocacy