On Wednesday, Secretary of Education Arne Duncan joined NEA President Dennis Van Roekel, Reps. Dave Obey (D-Wis.) and George Miller (D-Calif.) and AFT President Randi Weingarten in support of an education jobs bill to prevent dramatic and damaging cuts to resources and services that help kids succeed in school. At issue was the “Education Jobs Fund,” legislation that would provide $23 billion in emergency funding for education jobs. (See video.)
The group was joined by teachers who have recently received layoff notices and shared their stories about the education cuts. Catie Poff, a reading specialist at Kingston Elementary School in Richmond, Ky., provides individualized attention to students struggling with their reading so they can make up lost ground. Poff shared how the layoffs are affecting her students. “The idea of losing my job is upsetting, especially because I know I will never find a job as rewarding as this one or that I love as much,” said Poff. “But I am just as upset for my students as I am for myself. My kids—and kids everywhere—deserve every opportunity to succeed. We do them a disservice by denying them access to accomplished teachers who are able to work with them individually.”
NEA President Van Roekel noted, “The nation’s economic crisis has pushed public education to a tipping point, but there is still a chance to stave off more damage. Congress can choose to put students first by supporting a bill that will keep their teachers and other essential personnel and programs in our schools. All students deserve the highest quality education, and their education shouldn’t be diminished because we lack the political will to act. Every parent and community member and elected official needs to understand the real consequences to this funding crisis.”
Representative Obey, chair of the House Appropriations Committee, remarked, “The Recovery Bill last year saved over 300,000 education jobs, but, because states have not yet recovered, and local economies are just beginning the recovery process, we still have a shortage of the financial resources necessary to keep teachers, firemen and policemen on the job for another year while state budgets catch up. On that score, we have two choices—we can sit, frozen in our own indifference, as President Roosevelt once said, or we can take action to save those jobs. That’s what we’re going to try to do.”
In April, Secretary Duncan has testified before Congress that up to 300,000 educators could lose their jobs in the upcoming school year. In addition to potential layoffs, states and districts are cutting programs that are vital for the success of students. They’re canceling or scaling back summer school, early learning and after-school programs. Some school districts are going to four-day weeks. School counselors, nurses, and librarians are also at risk, as are extracurricular activities, arts programs, and sports.
At the press conference Duncan commented, “School boards and state legislatures are finalizing their education budgets for the upcoming school year and many face tough choices about whether to retain teachers and continue programs that are vital to their ability to provide a world-class education for their students. We must act quickly and responsibly to provide schools the resources they need so they don’t have to make choices that would not be in the best interests of their students and teachers.”
Office of Communications and Outreach