As the United States continues to suffer from high levels of unemployment, it’s time we start treating jobs as the most serious issue we face today.
On Thursday September 8, President Obama unveiled his proposed American Jobs Act to a joint session of Congress. As reported on NEA's Education Votes site, “High on the list of programs was $30 billion to prevent the layoffs of up to 280,000 teachers and rehire tens of thousands more.” A September 14 story in the Idaho Statesman noted that the bill “would prevent or reverse layoffs of about 2,500 teachers, police officers and firefighters” in Idaho as well as support as many as 1,200 jobs to modernize Idaho schools.
“These are the men and women charged with preparing our children for a world where the competition has never been tougher,” President Obama said. “But while they’re adding teachers in places like South Korea, we’re laying them off in droves. It’s unfair to our kids. It undermines their future and ours. And it has to stop. Pass this jobs bill, and put our teachers back in the classroom where they belong.”
The bill would also put unemployed construction workers to work to help modernize the nation's aging public schools. “President Obama clearly understands that quality education is the key to our nation’s future,” said NEA President Dennis Van Roekel. “We are pleased and encouraged that the President continues to demonstrate his commitment to the success of all students by helping to make sure they have the best possible learning environment—a key element of quality education.”
“Obama’s plan to create jobs acknowledges a backlog of repairs in our nation’s 100,000 public schools. As budget funds continue to dwindle, many school districts have been forced to put maintenance on the back burner. In many schools, students are subject to buildings that have poor air quality, unsafe drinking water and inadequate safety systems, including fire alarms and sprinklers.”
“The nation’s schools are in need of an upgrade in order to provide students with a twenty-first-century education,” said Bob Wise, president of the Alliance for Excellent Education and former governor of West Virginia. (Wise was in Idaho this summer to addess Supt. Tom Luna's Technology Task Force.) “Technology is changing nearly every facet of life, and we must capitalize on the opportunities offered by technology to strengthen the nation’s schools. President Obama’s school modernization proposal would help schools develop the technological infrastructure to strengthen instruction and prepare our students for success in college and a career. This investment in schools today will pay large dividends in the future.”
Van Roekel added that unemployment is an education issue as well as an economic issue. “Our members have seen firsthand the devastating impact unemployment is having on our communities and our schools,” he noted. “Too many of our students are coming to schools hungry and without the basic supplies they need as moms and dads struggle to make ends meet.”
Now more than ever, we need your help to tell the story that is playing out in Idaho schools amid three years of devastating budget cuts and new unfunded mandates. Please go to both educationvotes.org and to our “Share Your Story” link and tell how budget cuts are impacting your school and your family. These stories will be critical as we work to build support in Congress to create new jobs for American citizens and as we gear up for the 2012 legislative session and our work to defeat the harmful education laws passed last year.