Letter to the House on the Jobs Package
December 11, 2009
As Congress moves forward on a jobs package to promote economic recovery, the National Education Association (NEA), would like to reiterate our strong support for the inclusion of an Education Jobs Fund and an infrastructure investment program. Such funds will save and create jobs that help students achieve, run our schools, and strengthen the middle class.
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. We would like to remind you that NEA has state-by-state data available on the impact of the “funding cliff” that will occur once ARRA funds expire.
Investment in public education is the best investment for the nation’s economy, both in the short run and the long run. Therefore, we propose an emergency jobs package that includes:
- An Education Jobs Fund to maintain the investment in public education, and save and create jobs during 2010 and 2011. Additional federal money for public education will have an immediate impact on improving the employment picture because it is one of the most labor intensive industries. Saving an education employee from being laid off involves no wait time for grants and contracts to be drawn up or materials to be acquired.
Such a Fund will have the added benefit of keeping schools fully staffed so that class sizes do not swell to levels that can jeopardize efforts to raise student achievement and ensure our competitiveness, and will help keep education support professionals in our schools at a time when many students’ families are suffering financially and creating undue stress on children. It will also help address the negative impacts on student learning of economic distress. A recent study at the University of California found that children in families where the head of the household had lost a job were 15 percent more likely to repeat a grade.
The Education Jobs Fund should function largely as a continuation of and increase to the State Fiscal Stabilization Fund (SFSF) created in the ARRA. The ARRA included $48.6 billion for education through the SFSF, with $35.4 billion distributed so far. While layoffs in education still have occurred due to the economy, the SFSF prevented a far worse situation as it has been credited with saving or creating more than 255,000 jobs. The GAO reported that most of the ARRA funds did indeed avert layoffs and reduce potential increases in tuition in higher education. The nation cannot afford to now lose the education jobs that the initial SFSF helped save in 2009.
- An infrastructure investment program consisting of a dedicated funding stream for school construction and modernization to benefit elementary, secondary, and postsecondary education institutions, or a reauthorization of $25 billion in school construction bonds to modernize schools, put Americans to work and help students learn. Congress authorized the bond program as part of the ARRA. This program is 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 got only $700 million in bond allocations. Similarly, Tennessee has received requests for $305 million against its $121 million allocation. Therefore, we propose that this bond program, or a dedicated funding stream / direct grants program for school construction and modernization be included as part of a jobs package.
While Congressional and Administration leaders are focused on job creation, it will be counterproductive to lowering the unemployment rate if states and local governments are forced to lay off hundreds of thousands of public sector employees. We believe the above-outlined proposals reflect good public policy that will help keep our nation on the road to economic recovery.
We thank you for your consideration of our views on this important issue.
Director of Government Relations
Manager of Federal Advocacy