I rise today in support of a package that would provide critical relief to school districts across the nation.
The proposed amendment would provide $10 billion in additional support to local school districts to prevent imminent layoffs.
It is estimated that this fund will help keep nearly 140,000 educators employed during the up-coming school year.
The American Reinvestment and Recovery Act has been credited with saving 300,000 education jobs and has mitigated that impact of the recession.
As that funding comes to an end, however, massive job cuts once again threaten to stall economic recovery and damage our educational system.
Thus far, almost 80% of school districts across the nation have had to lay off educators.
My home state of Maryland, which is #1 in education according to Education Week for the second year in a row, is not immune.
One Maryland county has seen 800 jobs cut, 355 of those classroom positions.
These job losses have an economic ripple effect.
The Economic Policy Institute projects that every 100,000 education jobs lost causes an additional loss of 30,000 private sector jobs in local communities.
This can take a devastating toll on families and on whole communities.
As our children prepare to go back to school, let’s think for a moment about what these job cuts will mean for them.
For some, the bus route has changed since there are fewer drivers so it takes a bit longer to get to school.
When students get to class, it will be a little more crowded as the class size grows to accommodate more students and fewer teachers.
The lunch lines might be longer because there are fewer cafeteria workers to serve the students.
Art, music, and even social studies programs have been cut and teachers dismissed.
Get sick at your own risk because a school nurse will no longer be available to assist with treatment.
So, the remaining teachers, in addition to performing their traditional roles, now also become nurses, counselors, and custodians to even more students.
Larger class sizes, cutting programs, and cutting support personnel such as school nurses, counselors, bus drivers, and custodians, are just a few of the ways school districts are dealing with budgeting shortfalls.
Other options include unpaid furlough days and shortened school weeks.
All of these are detrimental to the educational experience and fly in the face of what we are trying to achieve with educational reform.
There are many theories about education reform. But to put it quite simply, there can be no educational reform if there are no teachers!
Mr. President, the $10 billion that this package puts into the states will provide immediate relief to school districts across the nation.
In Maryland, it could mean an estimated allocation of $178 million for Maryland, translating to 2,200 jobs.
Yet, it does not add one cent to the deficit.
The education jobs funding is fully offset, including $8.4 billion in rescissions.
This is not without sacrifice.
I am particularly disappointed by the rescission of $10.7 million in Department of Education Innovation and Improvement funds for public television’s Ready to Teach program.
However, I am respectful of the difficult choices that must be made in these times of economic crisis.
We need to make choices about spending.
And I choose to support putting teachers to work and giving students the best chance to learn.
I urge my colleagues to think of the mixed messages we would send to our children by not making this investment and passing this amendment.
We say to our children that they should work hard to get the best out of education but then we’re not willing to work to put the best into it?
We say that our children are our future but we aren’t willing to invest in them?
We expect teachers to equip our children with the knowledge they need to succeed but aren’t willing to equip our teachers with the resources they need to succeed?
It’s time to stand up for our students and teachers.
I urge my colleagues to join me in standing up for education by voting yes on the proposed amendment.