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Senate Considering Bailout for Teachers
posted by: Colin | April 15, 2010, 02:23 PM   

Sen. Tom Harkin (D-Iowa) is sponsoring a bill that would spend $23 billion of federal taxpayer money to help schools prevent impending layoffs. This $23 billion would be on top of the $100 billion provided to states as part of the 2009 economic stimulus. The bill follows warnings from Secretary of Education Arne Duncan that budget cuts could lead to 100,000 to 300,000 layoffs across the country. If $23 billion saved 300,000 jobs, they'd be at a cost of $76,666 each. For 100,000 jobs saved, the estimate Sen. Harkin uses, the cost per job is $230,000 each. Sen. Harkin also argues that the funding does not have to be offset with new revenue, as it is technically emergency spending.

It is interesting that the Washington Post article linked above repeats this argument for the additional federal funding: "public schools nationwide face larger class sizes." It is true that larger class sizes are on the horizon if student enrollment remained the same and teachers were let go, but according to a recent study by The Empire Center for New York State Policy, the opposite trend was the norm for the last decade. Between 2000 and 2009, New York state hired 15,000 teachers even though enrollment dropped by 121,000 students, bringing their student-to-teacher ratio from 13.9:1 to 13.1:1.

In fact 12 states hired teachers when student enrollment fell and others more increased the number of teachers by a rate four or five times greater than the growth of student enrollment. New York also hired 9,000 non-teaching professionals, such as assistant principals and social workers.

Some school districts facing impending layoffs and cuts in state aid have come up with creative ways to save jobs and not raise taxes. As I mentioned in a post earlier this week, a school district near Cape May, New Jersey unanimously agreed to a combination of budget cuts, a smaller annual salary increase than usual, and a superintendent cutting his salary by 70%. Their shared sacrifices saved the jobs of 32 of their colleagues and didn't raise taxes on the community.

What do you think of the legislation?
Is there a better way to spend $23 billion?

Comment below.

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