Teaching Our Way to a Stronger Economy

In order to compete and win internationally, our nation needs a highly educated workforce that is second to none.   Rising levels of education are critical to creating shared economic growth and mobility for every American.   And keeping America’s teachers in our classrooms is central to that goal.

This week, President Obama visited the University of Texas to discuss the relationship between his goals for America’s higher education system and the future of the American economy.  And today, the President took bold action, signing important legislation to provide urgent fiscal relief to school districts across the country to maintain our education system, and to enable 160,000 teachers to keep their jobs. 

Teacher Jobs Potentially Saved by the Education Jobs and Medicaid Assistance Act by State

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Over the past several months, President Obama has been working with Congress to pursue this legislation that would make sure these thousands of teachers can return to their schools and classrooms in the coming months.  The legislation signed by the President today marks an investment in our economic prosperity and in our children’s future.  Without it, the loss of thousands of jobs by teachers and other education personnel would have rippled through the larger economy and undercut the nation’s recovery.

As Secretary of Education Arne Duncan has traveled across the nation to discuss our Administration’s education agenda and our work to deliver a complete and competitive education to all children, he has witnessed firsthand the looming cuts that school districts faced as a result of the current economy. 

For example, in Iowa, schools were weighing layoffs of 1,500 education personnel – half of them teachers. Ames, Iowa had planned to cut kindergarten from full-day to half-day – even though research shows that students benefit from extra instruction.  One school district in Washington state had plans to cut 10 percent of its teachers.  And the Board in Charlotte, North Carolina, voted on a budget that will result in approximately 500 teacher layoff notices.

Today’s bill brings needed relief to these and other communities across the nation.  In addition, because the legislation is fully paid for, in part by closing tax loopholes that encourage corporations to ship American jobs overseas, we’ll be able to meet this charge in a manner that does not add to our deficit. 

We must place America’s children and the safety of our communities above partisan politics.   As the President noted earlier today, “a challenge that affects parents, children and citizens in almost every community in America should not be a Democratic problem or a Republican problem.  It is an American problem.” 

Today’s legislation responds directly to that problem.  It lets America’s parents, students, and teachers know that help is on the way.   And it delivers hope that they’ll begin a successful and productive year when they return to school this fall. 

Melody Barnes is the Director of the Domestic Policy Council

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