Hundreds of thousands of teachers may lose their jobs this year in the face of state and local budget cuts. The New York Times:
Districts in California have given pink slips to 22,000 teachers. Illinois authorities are predicting 17,000 job cuts in the public schools. And New York has warned nearly 15,000 teachers that their jobs could disappear in June.
Secretary of Education Arne Duncan estimated that state budget cuts imperiled 100,000 to 300,000 public school jobs. In an interview on Monday, he said the nation was flirting with “education catastrophe,” and urged Congress to approve additional stimulus funds to save school jobs.
“We absolutely see this as an emergency,” Mr. Duncan said.
When people talk about the financial intervention of the federal government and groan about socialism spreading at the expense of states' rights, do they understand that states governments have been one of the biggest beneficiaries of stimulus spending -- and that every cut Republicans managed to wrangle in the stimulus bill ended up directly costing their constituents not only jobs but quality education and emergency services?
Sen. Tom Harkin (D-Ia.) has introduced an emergency act that would provide $23 billion for states to use for compensation and benefits for existing employees. He estimates that right now, 300,000 educators nationwide are employed only through the funding from the stimulus bill. The bill isn't very likely to pass, because it would add to the deficit, and we all know how evil it is to do that.
So here's my question: Why isn't this politicized? Perhaps someone at the DNC, or if they're too busy, someone at MoveOn.Org, should sit down and figure out exactly which jobs were saved by the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act and then send out letters to all 300,000 teachers, administrators, janitors, and lunch ladies saying, Here are the names of the people (mostly Republicans) who voted to fire you! Why not send a letter to parents, explaining that their kids can only go to school four days a week now, in some districts, forcing them to find expensive child care solutions, because many of their elected officials believe it would be better for state school districts to "learn to live with less," as the Times quotes a former Bush administration official as suggesting.
This isn't one of those cases where there's terrible waste weighing down the system. We're talking about schools schools piling student after student into overcrowded classrooms, schools going without music, art, and physical education, schools firing administrators, teachers, nurses, psychologists, and coaches and still not meeting the costs of educating students. If America really sees education as a priority, why should districts have to learn to live with less? If we really believe, as the ranking Republican on the Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions committee says he does, that "Our economy depends on an educated and skilled workforce to be successful in the global market," why isn't there a bill racing through Congress right now to provide additional education funding? And why aren't people explaining that the expiration of Bush tax cuts in December could help make it possible to keep these jobs?
It's the kind of thing the GOP does all the time, only usually their scare messages are less true. You can actually prove that people who voted against the stimulus, who instead wanted a package with even more tax cuts, were against maintaining state budgets at such a level that teachers could keep their jobs.