In his State of the Union address, President Obama said that “Jobs must be our number one focus in 2010.” The U.S. House of Representatives recently passed a sweeping package designed to spur our economy and put Americans back to work. The Jobs for Main Street Act includes an Education Jobs Fund that will help states retain or create an estimated 250,000 education jobs over the next two years. The act also includes funds for school construction, renovation and modernization. In Nebraska alone this job package will save 700 education jobs that provide economic stimulus for every community in the state.
The Education Jobs Fund should function largely as a continuation of, and increase to, the State Fiscal Stabilization Fund (SFSF) created in the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009 (ARRA). While layoffs in education still have occurred due to the economy, the SFSF prevented what might have been a far worse situation, as it has been credited with saving or creating more than 255,000 jobs nationwide. Such a fund will have the added benefit of keeping schools fully staffed, ensuring that class sizes do not swell to levels that will jeopardize efforts to raise student achievement and threaten our competitiveness. The fund will also help keep education-support professionals in our schools at a time when many students’ families are suffering financially, which creates undue stress on children.
Christina Romer, chair of President Obama’s Council of Economic Advisers (CEA), recently presented the council’sAnnual Report to the President 2010. While taking questions at the press conference, she was asked what part of the $787 billion stimulus package she liked the best. Romer responded that fiscal relief to states has been “one of the triumphs” and has had “more bite than we would have thought.” This observation coming from the CEA chair affirms the economic value to the nation of this aid and reinforces the need to continue such assistance through an Education Jobs Fund.
In addition to funding for education jobs, the package in the Senate, as passed in the House, should include an infrastructure investment program consisting of a dedicated funding stream for school construction and modernization to benefit elementary, secondary and postsecondary education institutions, or a reauthorization of $25 billion in school construction bonds to modernize schools, put Americans to work and help students learn. Congress authorized the bond program as part of the ARRA. This program is efficient and cost-effective for state and local governments, and demand for it is high. And while it creates great new learning environments for our children, this will be a key component in creating good paying construction jobs in the private sector.
When credit markets are tight and private businesses are struggling to stay alive, we cannot rely on the private sector alone to stimulate the economy. History tells us that major investment in the public sector, creating good paying education jobs in every community, is the best thing we can do to get the economy going again. When a teacher, a paraprofessional or a professor gets a raise, they spend that raise on Main Street in their hometown, often with family-run businesses. Please encourage our congressional delegation to support creating jobs by investing in public education and infrastructure.