Keeping Teachers Off the Unemployment Line

“I don’t want teachers on the unemployment line. I want them in the classroom,” Secretary Duncan said last Friday at an American Jobs Act roundtable in Richmond, Va. “This is really a moment of truth for the country,” Arne said. Either invest in education, he added, or other countries will pass us by.

Secretary Duncan Tours in Richmond

Secretary Duncan talks with students during a tour of Richmond Community High School (official Department of Education Photo by Leslie Williams).

The American Jobs Act would provide $60 billion for education, in the form of jobs for educators and upgrades to schools and community colleges. Virginia alone stands to receive  $425 million for public school upgrades, and $742 million to preserve up to 10,000 teacher jobs. Richmond superintendent Yvonne Brandon said that federal money through the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act and additional job-saving funding had prevented teacher layoffs, but with that money now spent, Richmond faces a $16 million deficit for the next school year.

“In this budget cycle, everything is on the table,” Brandon said. “I’m afraid [teacher layoffs] may have to be part of the conversation this year.”

In addition to participating in a roundtable, Duncan toured Richmond Community High School—a 2011 Blue Ribbon School—where students and teachers showed the Secretary the need for infrastructure upgrades at their 86-year-old campus. He saw outdated science labs and leaky ceilings and heard about duct-taped textbooks and slow computers.

Arne noted the visit on his Twitter account and asked other students and teachers to join the conversation:

The American Jobs Act proposes a major investment that will modernize at least 35,000 public schools, and support 280,000 teacher jobs nationwide. See what impact the Act will have in your state, and read a complete overview of the American Jobs Act here.

Budget Cuts in Pennsylvania – We Need the American Jobs Act

Cross-posted from the White House Blog.

My name is Todd Smeltz.  I am an educator, parent and taxpayer in the Upper Dauphin Area School District in Pennsylvania where my children attend school.  I have a son in the 8th grade and a daughter in 1st grade, and I teach high school chemistry.  My wife also teaches in the district, elementary learning support (grades K-2).  Due to the budget crunch last year, our district furloughed teachers and dropped positions that teachers retired from.  It saddens me to teach in these times after 22 years of experience. 

Due to budget cuts, my middle-school son went back to school with a computer program instead of a foreign language teacher for his World Languages class.  A teacher certified in physical education monitors the class while the students sit at computers trying to learn Spanish.  Our high school students will not be able to take French and will be limited to German and Spanish.  My son also doesn’t have a Science class—the math teacher was furloughed and the Food and Consumer Science teacher has to cover math classes since she also has 7-9 math certification.

My first-grade daughter no longer has computer class and limited library access—the librarian was furloughed and the middle school librarian has to “cover” the elementary library as well. The district has no nurse at all for the last 45 minutes of the elementary school day. The superintendent’s response is that was that we have people trained in CPR—not comforting to me as a parent, knowing that emergencies can happen at the end of the day as easily as they can any other time.

Our district also cut a high school English teacher, so our students have larger class sizes in a critical subject area. We also cut a music position, making it more difficult for students to participate at all ages.

I see quality education in our district disintegrating — and, those that suffer the most are our children. They need our support.

America’s education system has always been one of our greatest sources of strength and global economic competitiveness, as well as the engine of incredible progress in science, technology and the arts. We cannot expect to train our children for the high-skilled jobs of today, or for the opportunities of the future, without investments in a world-class education system.  States are still reeling from the recession and their budget woes are having a devastating impact on schools and students. That is why the federal government needs to provide more emergency education funding to states and localities.

As many as 280,000 education jobs are on the chopping block in the upcoming school year due to continued state budget constraints. As Todd’s personal story shows, these cuts have a significant impact on children’s education, through the reduction of school days, increased class size, and the elimination of key classes and services. The President’s plan will support state and local efforts to retain, rehire, and hire early childhood, elementary, and secondary educators (including teachers, guidance counselors, classroom assistants, afterschool personnel, tutors, and literacy and math coaches).

These efforts will help ensure that schools are able to keep teachers in the classroom, preserve or extend the regular school day and school year, and also support important after-school activities.  These funds would help states and localities such as Upper Dauphin School District avoid and reverse their layoffs now, requiring that funds be drawn down quickly. Under the President’s proposal, $1,155,300,000 in funds would go to Pennsylvania to support the hiring and retention up to 14,400 educator jobs. The American Jobs Act will ensure that Todd’s children can go back to their schools with all of the teachers, classes, and support they need to compete in the 21st century economy. Now is the time to invest in our teachers and our students’ knowledge in technology, computers, foreign languages, and other key skills that districts across the country are cutting.

President Obama believes that America cannot win the future if its teachers are not where they belong—at the chalkboards or the Smart Boards in our classrooms, teaching our nation’s children. That’s why he put forward a plan—the American Jobs Act—that will provide support for nearly 400,000 education jobs, enough for states to avoid harmful layoffs, rehire tens of thousands of teachers who lost their jobs over the past three years, preserve or extend the regular school day and school year, and support important after-school activities.

Teachers and the American Jobs Act Stories:

Putting Our Teachers Back to Work: Stephanie Harris Walter 

Please share your story about how the American Jobs Act will positively impact you or your community.

Todd Smeltz is a member of the National Education Association– a supporter of the American Jobs Act.

Brad Jenkins is an Associate Director at the Office of Public Engagement.

The Path to Prosperity Lies in Investing in Education

Secretary Duncan at Portland Town Hall

Official Department of Education Photo by Paul Wood

“The path to prosperity lies in investing judiciously in education, [and] modernizing schools and crumbling infrastructure,” Secretary Duncan said yesterday in Portland, Ore., speaking at the Oregon Business Associations’ annual Statesman Dinner. Arne delivered the keynote address after holding a town hall with the Oregon Education Association earlier in the day.

During both stops in Portland, Duncan highlighted how the American Jobs Act will keep teachers in the classroom and help modernize and repair American’s aging public schools.

“The President’s bill includes two education components,” Duncan explained. “It would keep teachers in the classroom instead of on unemployment lines. And it would put construction workers back to work modernizing and repairing public schools and community colleges.”

Read more about how the American Jobs Act, and see how the President’s proposal will impact your state.

Putting Our Teachers Back to Work: Stephanie Harris Walter

Stephanie

Stephanie Harris Walker, Putting Our Teachers Back to Work.

Cross-posted from the White House Blog.

“My name is Stephanie Harris Walter.  I am a 43-year-old, married mother of two beautiful children, and I have been a teacher for 13 years.  Since moving to Ohio several years ago, I have taught high school English and History specializing in the 11th and 12th grades — most recently at Jefferson County Joint Vocational School on the Ohio-Pennsylvania border.  Every day, I gave my best to prepare each of my students with the skills they need to enter the private sector, the military, or move on to higher education despite the challenging conditions at JCVS, such as its leaky roof and outdated technology in the classroom.  To balance its budget last year, Jefferson County School District laid off a number of teachers and education support staff, including me.  Since losing my teaching job, every morning I wait by the phone hoping for a possible sub assignment to make ends meet. I only hope I have an opportunity to return to my students and continue to support my family.”

President Obama’s American Jobs Act would invest $30 billion to make sure that teachers like Stephanie and 400,000 educators would stay on the job, while supporting the hiring of tens of thousands more.  Under the American Jobs Act, Ohio would immediately receive over $1 billion to put Stephanie and 14,200 Ohio educators back to work in the classroom.

The American Jobs Act will also modernize at least 35,000 public schools – investments that will create local jobs while improving classrooms, and upgrading our schools to meet 21st century needs.  Ohio will receive $985,500,000 in funding to support as many as 12,800 jobs – fixing our crumbling schools, making classroom sizes smaller and more energy efficient.   As Stephanie Walter shared, Jefferson County Joint Vocational School desperately needs that support to fix its leaking roof and crumbling infrastructure.  Through the American Jobs Act, we can put hard-working teachers like Stephanie back on the job at a modernized school that every family and child deserves.

Read the Transcript  |  Download Video: mp4 (290MB) | mp3 (28MB)

Speaking this past Tuesday in Texas, President Obama compared the situation here with South Korea, where their President said they can’t hire teachers fast enough:

They call them “nation builders” — that’s what they call teachers in Korea, “nation builders,” because they know that educating their children is the best way to make sure their economy is growing, make sure that good jobs are locating there, making sure they’ve got the scientists and the engineers and the technicians who can build things and ship them all around the world. That’s what he understands. And the whole country supports him. Here in America, we’re laying off teachers in droves. It makes no sense. It has to stop. It has to stop.

Please share your story about how the American Jobs Act will positively impact you or your community. Stephanie Harris Walter is a member of the National Education Association — a supporter of the American Jobs Act.

Brad Jenkins is an Associate Director at the Office of Public Engagement.

President Obama: American Jobs Act Will Prevent Up to 280,000 Teachers from Losing their Jobs

President Barack Obama tours the Lab School at Eastfield College in Mesquite, Texas, Oct. 4, 2011. (Official White House Photo by Pete Souza)

President Barack Obama tours the Lab School at Eastfield College in Mesquite, Texas, Oct. 4, 2011. (Official White House Photo by Pete Souza)

Cross-posted from the White House Blog.

The White House today released a report that outlines the devastating impact the recession has had on schools and students across the country. Teacher Jobs at Risk highlights the significant cuts in education spending that have resulted from state budget shortfalls since 2008, including the loss of nearly 300,000 teaching jobs across the country (see chart below).

And in the coming school year, without additional support, many school districts will have to make another round of difficult decisions. As a result of state and local funding cuts, as many as 280,000 teacher jobs could be at risk. Unless they receive federal assistance, many school districts will be forced to reduce the number of teachers in their classrooms, or turn to other measures such as shortening the school year or cutting spending on schoolbooks and supplies.

President Obama, speaking today in Texas, compared the situation here with South Korea, where their President said they can’t hire teachers fast enough:

“They call them “nation builders” — that’s what they call teachers in Korea, “nation builders,” because they know that educating their children is the best way to make sure their economy is growing, make sure that good jobs are locating there, making sure they’ve got the scientists and the engineers and the technicians who can build things and ship them all around the world. That’s what he understands. And the whole country supports him. Here in America, we’re laying off teachers in droves. It makes no sense. It has to stop. It has to stop.”

The President was at Eastfield Community College, in Mesquite, Texas where he toured a pre-school before talking about the impact the American Jobs Act will have on schools, and on teachers, across the country. He told the crowd there that the stakes for addressing this situation are high, with “nothing less than our ability to compete in this 21st century economy” at risk.

This is why one of the central components of the American Jobs Act, which the President introduced last month at a Joint Session of Congress, is funding to avoid and reverse teacher layoffs now, and to provide support for the re-hiring and hiring of educators.

Specifically, the American Jobs Act will invest $30 billion to support state and local efforts to retain, rehire, and hire early childhood, elementary, and secondary educators. If enacted, these teacher stabilization funds would help prevent layoffs and support the hiring or re-hiring of nearly 400,000 educators, includ¬ing teachers, guidance counselors, classroom assistants, afterschool personnel, tutors, and literacy and math coaches. These funds will ensure that schools are able to keep teachers in the classroom, preserve or extend the regular school day and school year, and maintain important afterschool activities.

The impact of this funding is clear:

    • In the states with the largest numbers of students, the American Jobs Act will support tens of thousands of educator jobs—California (37,300), Florida (25,900), Illinois (14,500), New York (18,000) and Texas (39,500).
    • Funding is targeted to the school districts most in need of support across the country, especially those with a high share of students living in poverty. The Department of Education projects that New York City will receive around $950 million, Los Angeles Unified School District will receive around $570 million, Dade County School District will receive around $250 million, and Houston and Dallas Independent School Districts will each receive more than $100 million.
    • Even in states with smaller student enrollments, the American Jobs Act will have a significant impact—supporting over a thousand educator jobs in states like Montana (1,400), Arkansas (4,100), Nevada (3,600), and Iowa (4,100). Medium-size school districts like those in Wake County, North Carolina and Nashville, Tennessee will receive funding ranging from $50 million to $75 million.

As the President said today in Texas, Americans cannot afford to wait for things to get better, it is time to act:

We are not people who sit back in tough times. We step up in tough times. We make things happen in tough times. We’ve been through tougher times before, and we got through them. We’re going to get through these to a brighter day, but we’re going to have to act. God helps those who help themselves. We need to help ourselves right now.

Let’s get together. Let’s get to work. Let’s get busy. Let’s pass this bill. Let’s make sure that we are shaping a destiny for our children that we are proud of, and let’s remind the entire world why the United States of America is the greatest nation on the planet.

Georgia Teen Hopes American Jobs Act Is Passed

Cross-posted from the White House Blog.

Destiny Wheeler wants Congress to pass the American Jobs Act now. The 16-year-old wrote to President Obama last month, and explained that the rough economy was making it “hard to see myself pushing forward and putting my family in a better position.”

The President was moved by the Georgia high school junior’s plea, and referenced her letter in his October 1 weekly address.  In it, Destiny wrote about her fears that despite her hard work, the caliber of her education will seem “trivial” compared to her peers in other countries. “The American Jobs Act,” she wrote “gives me hope that I might start to receive a better education, that one day job opportunities will be open for me to grasp and that one day my personal American Dream will be reached.”

In a follow-up conversation, Destiny said it wasn’t just concern for her own future that compelled her to write to the President for the first time, but the Jobs Acts’ emphasis on modernizing schools across the country. “I am mostly focused on what I see in other schools. In some schools there will be tons of students and only 3 computers and one of them doesn’t even work. You modernize schools and you help kids move forward.” Her own school, Destiny said, does have enough computers for students to use in class.

President Obama is well aware of the negative effects the economy is having on our students. “Here in America, we are laying off teachers in droves. It makes no sense, and it has to stop,” President Obama said today in Texas.  “Congress should pass this jobs bill so we can put our teachers back in the classroom where they belong.”

America’s education system has always been one of this country’s greatest sources of strength and global economic competitiveness, as well as the engine of incredible progress in science, technology, and the arts. Today’s students will not get the training they need for the high-skilled jobs of today, or for the opportunities of the future, without investments in a world-class education system.

Today, the White House released a report, Teacher Jobs at Risk, outlining how the Administration’s efforts – including the American Jobs Act – will keep teachers in the classroom, strengthen our schools and improve the local economy in communities across the country.The American Jobs Act will support nearly 400,000 education jobs, preventing layoffs of educators and allowing thousands more to be hired or rehired. In addition, the President’s plan will modernize at least 35,000 public school buildings and community college campuses, which is the element of the plan that so appeals to Destiny Wheeler, and is giving her renewed hope for her own future and that of students like her across the country.

“Please Mr, President,” she wrote, “continue your support for this Bill, it means so much to me and my family to know there is someone in government looking out for the common citizen.”

The President’s Plan for the Economy and Education

Imagine Steve Jobs trying to design the next generation of tablet computers using mainframe hardware from the Eisenhower administration. Or American automakers trying to out-engineer foreign competitors on an assembly line with equipment from the 1960s.

Unfortunately, just such antiquated facilities and barriers to innovation exist today in precisely the institutions that can least afford it: our nation’s public schools. The digital age has now penetrated virtually every nook of American life, with the exception of many public schools.

The average public school building in the United States is more than 40 years old. Nationwide, cash-strapped school districts face an enormous $270 billion backlog of deferred maintenance and repairs.

On Tuesday, President Obama spoke at Abraham Lincoln High School in Denver about the need to urgently modernize public schools, and the importance of keeping teachers in the classroom, instead of in unemployment lines.

In the American Jobs Act, President Obama proposes to invest $30 billion to repair and modernize public schools and community colleges, putting hundreds of thousands of unemployed construction workers, engineers, boiler repairmen, and electrical workers back to work. He proposed an additional $30 billion to keep hundreds of thousands of educators facing potential layoffs and furloughs on the job.

Modernizing and repairing our schools is a classic win-win solution. It benefits everyone — children, communities, and construction workers who need work.

Tragically, children in the nation’s poorest school districts often attend schools with crumbling ceilings, overcrowded classrooms, and facilities that lack basic wiring infrastructure for computers and other modern-day technology. That’s no way to provide a world-class education — and in today’s global economy, a country that out-educates America will out-compete us.

Abraham Lincoln High School opened in 1960. Some of its science labs lack sinks — and have had only minor plumbing renovation in the last 51 years. Despite district and school efforts to upgrade equipment and software, the school’s computer lab — like many in the Denver Public Schools — is not designed to support small-group learning and the acquisition of 21st century skills.

Denver Public Schools has already identified $425 million in major repair and modernization projects districtwide that could be started within the next year, from replacing aging boilers and leaking roofs to improving educational technology.

This is not a partisan issue. The physical conditions at some aging schools today are unacceptable. They are no place for children to learn.

The president’s jobs bill would modernize at least 35,000 schools, or about one out of every three public schools in the United States. In Colorado, the jobs bill would provide $265 million to put as many as 3,400 construction workers back on the job modernizing Colorado’s schools. Denver Public Schools alone would receive up to $75.5 million.

Nationwide, $25 billion would go to upgrading existing public school facilities (including charter schools), with $5 billion invested in modernizing community colleges. The federal government will not fund new construction or pick the schools to modernize. Those decisions will be left entirely to states and districts with knowledge of local needs.

Projections from proposals similar to the president’s plan suggest it could create as many as 300,000 jobs in the construction trades nationwide.

While modernization could put a small army of Americans back to work rebuilding and upgrading our schools, looming teacher layoffs could have a devastating impact in the classroom.

As many as 280,000 education jobs may be on the chopping block in the upcoming school year due to multibillion-dollar state and local budget shortfalls. But under the jobs bill, Colorado would receive $478 million to support and protect up to 7,000 educator jobs.

As the bar for educational success rises worldwide in the knowledge economy, this is no time to be laying off scores of teachers and early childhood educators.

Already, financially pinched school districts are reducing class time, shortening the school calendar, cutting after-school programs and early childhood education, and reducing top-notch arts and music instruction.

President Obama recently shared the story of Jason Chuong, a Philadelphia music teacher who uses plastic buckets to teach his students to play percussion — because he only has a $100 out-of-pocket budget to cover music instruction at seven schools.

The path to prosperity, the way to win the future, is to invest wisely in schools, remembering that children get only one chance at an education.

That’s why the president’s plan to modernize our schools for the 21st century and minimize teacher layoffs is the right plan, at the right time. We cannot afford to do less.

Arne Duncan is the U.S. Secretary of Education.

The following op-ed appeared in the Denver Post on September 28.

Weekly Address: Strengthening the American Education System

Cross-posted from the White House blog.

President Obama explains that states will have greater flexibility to find innovative ways of improving the education system, so that we can raise standards in our classrooms and prepare the next generation to succeed in the global economy.


Click here for an alternate version of the video with an accessible player.

Leading the Charge in Digital Learning

“Our country has pioneered manned space travel and the creation of the Internet. Yet today, our country is lagging behind other countries in leveraging the power of technology in our classrooms,” said Secretary Duncan Friday at the White House launch of a new congressionally created education nonprofit, Digital Promise.

Digital Promise Launch

Launch of Digital Promise at the White House. (Official Department of Education photo by Joshua Hoover)

When I think about the groundswell of creativity, intelligence, and talent that makes up America’s teaching corps, the very thought is overwhelming.

As teachers, many of us struggle to provide the digital technology training that will prepare our students for a globalized world. I am thrilled to see that innovation in education, including digital learning, is a clear priority for this administration. In fact, with the American Jobs Act, President Obama has proposed $25 billion to modernize at least 35,000 of our neediest schools, and will provide essential upgrades to bring many of America’s school buildings into the 21st century.

Digital Promise, which is the brainchild of a passionate group of educators, entrepreneurs, researchers, and technology companies, is committed to working on three key challenges: (1) identifying innovative technologies in education software; (2) learning faster what works and what doesn’t; and (3) generating demand that drives innovation in the private sector.

At Friday’s launch, I watched the genesis of what is one of the most stirring responses to that problem. As a teacher, I was especially excited to witness entrepreneurs and private sector companies rally behind the education cause with such enthusiasm. As a high school social studies teacher, I am especially glad to see what digital technology can do to help our students access a world-class curriculum, one of this administration’s priorities.

“Digital learning changed me forever,” said Josniel Martinez, an 11 year-old middle schooler from Global Tech High School in East Harlem, New York, who introduced Secretary Duncan at the White House event. Last year, he received a “Promotion in Doubt” letter stating that he was at risk of not passing to the next grade due to poor academic performance. His mother pushed him to use a digital learning program three times a week and in a short time, this young man had completely turned his grades around. At once, his academic growth was tangible and he is beginning to set long-term academic goals for himself.

As a Teaching Ambassador Fellow, I have had the opportunity to observe numerous exciting initiatives at ED and Digital Promise is one I am going to keep my eye on.

Claire Jellinek is a 9th-12th grade social studies teacher at South Valley Academy in Albuquerque, NM and a 2011-2012 Washington Teaching Ambassador Fellow.

Education Stakeholders Weigh In on the American Jobs Act

It’s been a week since President Obama announced the American Jobs Act to a joint session of Congress, and since that time the education community has responded enthusiastically about the proposal that would allocate $30 billion to support teacher jobs and $30 billion for school and community college modernization and renovation (click here to see how it will affect your state).

Council for Exceptional Children: “CEC’s members, like all Americans, have felt the brunt of this economic downturn and have witnessed its direct impact on the children and youth with disabilities and those with gifts and talents whom they serve. Without this investment, we risk letting our nation’s greatest asset – our children – languish in short-staffed, overcrowded, underfunded classrooms.”

National Association of Secondary School Principals: “This bill is about all of us. It’s not about supporting an ideology or institution, but supporting our children–those who will be our caretakers and leaders in the next generation–with educators and facilities that will empower them to thrive.

National Education Association: “Unemployment isn’t just an economic issue – it’s an education issue. Our members have seen firsthand the devastating impact unemployment is having on our communities and our schools. 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.”

PTA: “Our PTA members witness, first hand, the devastating impact of teacher and administrative layoffs: school days are shortened, enrichment programs disappear, classroom size increases, and student outcomes suffer.”

Hispanic Association of Colleges and Universities: “President Obama’s proposal is a step in the right direction to tackle our nation’s unemployment rate.”

American Association of School Administrators: “The American Jobs Act would devote $25 billion to the renovation of 35,000 schools and $30 billion to preventing the layoff of 280,000 teachers.  Keeping teachers in our classrooms is essential to meeting the educational needs of our students.  Creating jobs that will make much-needed repairs to our schools is a win-win situation.”

National School Boards Association: “Our school children deserve a quality education and that cannot happen when their teachers are getting laid off and their school buildings are in need of repairs and upgrades that keep getting postponed due to budget cuts.”

American Federation of Teachers: “The President wisely decided to invest in jobs and programs that will rebuild our nation to meet its promise and potential.”

Council of the Great City Schools: “The President’s plan will not only help stimulate the economy, provide badly needed jobs, put laid-off teachers back in our classrooms, and fix our aging schools, but more importantly it will begin to rebuild the nation’s capacity to deliver 21st century educational services that meet the new higher academic standard adopted by nearly all of the states.”

Committee for Education Funding: “Our students deserve safe, healthy and modern school buildings” said CEF President Abbie Evans. “It’s hard for students to learn in schools with environmental hazards or lacking modern technology and science labs.”

Learn more on how the American Jobs Act will repair and modernize America’s schools.

Read a complete overview of the American Jobs Act.

Upgrading Schools and Putting Teachers Back to Work

Earlier today, Secretary Arne Duncan joined President Obama at Fort Hayes Arts and Academic High School in Columbus, Ohio to highlight the American Jobs Act. The Act proposes a major investment that will modernize at least 35,000 public schools, and support 280,000 teacher jobs nationwide.

Putting Teachers Back to Work

At the White House on Monday, out-of-work teachers applauded as the President outlined how the American Jobs Act will grow the economy and create jobs. Following the Rose Garden event, the teachers shared their stories with Secretary Duncan at the Department of Education headquarters.

Lisa Bruska, a mother of three who’s fighting cancer, explained to Secretary Duncan the hardship of being laid off from teaching first grade in Minnesota, and she hoped that Congress would move to put educators like her back to work.

American Jobs Act Facts: 

  • $30 billion to support teachers’ jobs
  • $25 billion in funds will be used to upgrade existing public school facilities
  • $5 billion investment in modernizing community colleges

See what impact the American Jobs Act will have in your state.

Learn more on how the American Jobs Act will repair and modernize America’s schools.

Read a complete overview of the American Jobs Act.

Out-of-Work Teachers Visit White House, Weigh In on Jobs Bill at ED

As President Obama held up a copy of his American Jobs Act in the White House Rose Garden Monday and urged Congress to put aside political differences to put Americans back to work, he was surrounded by a supportive audience that included more than 20 educators who have personally felt the sting of tough economic times.

Special education teacher Terrell Williams works in a Baltimore, Md., school that is in such poor condition that he gets angry with the debate about whether or not to fix it.

Teachers who have been laid off because of budget shortfalls applauded loudly as the President described how “all across America teachers are being laid off in droves” and argued that this is “exactly what we shouldn’t be doing if we want to prepare our kids for college.”

These teachers had very personal reasons for applauding the President’s plan. More than half off them have been laid of or are facing potential layoffs. Others work in schools that are falling apart, where brown water flows from faucets, ceilings leak and they share their classrooms with rodents.

Later in the day, many of the educators who had come to Washington for the President’s speech congregated at ED to share their stories with some of the ED staff and Secretary Arne Duncan.

They included teacher Lisa Bruska, a mother of three who’s fighting cancer, who described being laid off from teaching first grade at Becker Primary School in Minnesota. Her husband, Randy, a machinist, is also out of work. Bruska described the President’s speech as “inspirational” and urged Congress to invest in putting educators like her back to work.

Lisa Bruska, a mother of three who’s fighting cancer, described being laid off from teaching first grade in Minnesota

Stephanie Harris Walker, an English teacher from Amsterdam, Ohio, who lost her job at Jefferson County Joint Vocational School, said that when the President described “schools that desperately need renovating,” she could really relate. “I was picturing my own school with a leaking roof,” she said, through tears.

Special education teacher Terrell Williams works in a Baltimore, Md., school that is in such poor condition that he gets angry with the debate about whether or not to fix it. “Sometimes I just find it offensive,” Williams said. Explaining that it is difficult to assure children that education is important when their schools are falling apart, Williams urged teachers and families to show decision-makers what the conditions are like for his kids.

Today, Secretary Duncan is traveling with President Obama to a school in Columbus, Ohio, to talk about the need to fix sub-standard school facilities. After his discussion with teachers, Duncan said, “These are the very conversations we need to be having across this country right now.”

The White House has prepared a fact sheet explaining how the American Jobs Act will help upgrade schools and community colleges, including how much money for modernization and renovation will flow to each state and some of the nation’s largest school districts.

Laurie Calvert

ED Teacher Liaison Laurie Calvert, a high school English teacher, is on loan to the Department of Education from Buncombe County, North Carolina.