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The Jobs Bill Showdown & Fuzzy Math on Teacher Jobs
posted by: Alix | October 11, 2011, 08:31 PM   

Among the many new spending initiatives in President Obama's jobs bill is the flagged 30 billion dollars meant to hire teachers, preserve current jobs, and improve school buildings across the country. While the Senate is expected to debate the controversial legislation this week, the White House is warning that without this federal funding, nearly 280,000 education jobs will be lost this year alone. With rhetoric reaching a boiling point in Washington, the Associated Press is now reporting that President Obama's estimates may be far off the apocalyptic estimates.

The fact is both sides of the debate know that state budgets have been decimated since the recession took hold in 2008. According to Bureau of Labor statistics, 294,000 education jobs, including public school teachers, administrative and support personnel, and employees of colleges and universities, have been lost since 2008. As often reported on the AAE blog, this has left states cutting programs and looking for cost effective reforms to combat budget shortfalls.

According to President Obama without his legislation, nearly 300,000 jobs will be lost this school year alone–more than the last three years combined. While this number may seem daunting, the Associated Press is noting that this number operates on fuzzy math and assumptions. Administration officials cite data from the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities who even admit in a report that "it is not possible to calculate directly the additional loss of jobs resulting from state education budget cuts."

While injecting federal dollars into state budgets is a strategy that President Obama is calling essential, Republicans in both the House and Senate are arguing that the plan spends money that we don't have with an uncertain outcome. As the Obama administration learned in the aftermath of the first stimulus, it is extremely difficult to quantify how many jobs are created or saved through federal spending.

Further, in August 2010, another smaller stimulus known as the "teacher union bailout" was signed into law to the tune of $10 billion. Despite this intervention, little changed and budgets remained slashed. Congressional Republicans argue that this current bill is just more of the same.

Even if the president's plan did inject money into budgets to hire teachers, is simply hiring more teachers the way to combat our education problems? Tim Farmer, an AAE leader in Colorado, questions the plan in an article for Education Next. "While I understand this bill is designed to create more dues-paying members for the union, I really don't see how it is going to have any positive impact on getting the highest quality teachers into classrooms to benefit students."

U.S. Department of Education statistics show that the student-teacher ratio has dropped from 18:1 in 1960 to 8:1 today. While many states are experiencing financial difficulties, our public school teacher workforce is bigger than ever – leaving many to wonder if embracing commonsense reform would yield better results than another round of federal spending.

Clearly as the jobs bill battle rages on, those invested in our system need to reflect on not only the controversial promises of the Obama administration, but the impact of simply hiring more teachers in an already crowded workforce.

Do you think the jobs bill is a solution for state education woes?
Comment below.

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