$23 billion to save teachers' jobs

Education Secretary Arne Duncan is backing Sen. Tom Harkin’s $23 billion bill to save teachers’ jobs, reports Politics K-12. Students worry that their favorite teachers will be laid off, Duncan said.

Threatening to fire teachers — and then “heroically saving” teachers’ jobs with emergency funding — “has become the national pastime of America’s politicians,” sneers Hit & Run.  Much of the $100 billion in education stimulus funds “went directly to pay for the salary, benefits, and pensions of school personnel.”

But now, in a development that exactly everyone could have foreseen, that money is running out. And since the massive infusion of cash saved states from having to make tough decisions about the budget, we are exactly where we were at the beginning of 2009. The cry goes ’round the room: Teacher firings are upon us!

The bill delays the inevitable belt-tightening, Gadfly agrees. Students will lose their “favorite teachers” only if “unions force districts to abide by ‘last-hired, first-fired’ rules,  instead of making lay-off decisions based on merit, Gadfly adds.

Harkin’s plan is to “drop more money out of airplanes for education” without seeking meaningful reforms in return, writes Daniel L. Bennett on the College Affordability blog.

The bill was introduced as an emergency spending bill, meaning that it would be exempt from the meaningless pay-as-you-go rules that require new spending to be financed.

During the fat years, teacher hiring outpaced enrollment, notes the Wall Street Journal.

Between 2001 and 2007, 12 states saw student enrollment fall while teaching staffs grew, according to data from the Census Bureau and the National Center for Education Statistics. And in another half-dozen states, teachers were hired out of all proportion to increased enrollment.

For example, Virginia’s student enrollment grew by 5% and the number of teachers grew by 21%. In Florida, student enrollment rose by 6% and the number of teachers rose by 20%. Student enrollment was up by 9% in North Carolina, where the number of teachers was up by 22%.

In a recession economy, that’s not sustainable, especially if top-scale teachers’ jobs are protected by seniority, while bottom-scale teachers are laid off.  (And, yes, if seniority vanishes, there’s a big financial incentive to lay off experienced top-scale teachers.)

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  1. It also undermines those state attempting to realign their budgets to the new reality. Gov. Christie in NJ in particular. Of a total state budget of 28 billion, we have a short fall of 11 billion. How much of the 23 billion in federal funds can Jersey get its hands on? Can we rely on this largess every year? Just another gimmick.

  2. Inigo Montoya says:

    Hm. There’s a recession. Economic activity in the states declines. Their tax revenues decline. They have to balance their budgets. The largest function of most state budgets is education. To balance their budgets, states will cut education. Schools will lay off teachers.

    But we don’t expect the recession will go on forever, do we? Why *not* use the federal government to limit the disruption of schools until the recession is over? It’s not like the schools were like the banking industry, asking to be bailed out after creating the financial crisis themselves.

    And I don’t like this whole Naomi Klein thing of using the recession as an opportunity to impose Hit and Run’s or Gadfly’s pet “reforms.”

    Let’s bail out the schools for one more year. It was really helpful this year.

  3. “But we don’t expect the recession will go on forever, do we? Why *not* use the federal government to limit the disruption of schools until the recession is over?”

    Because revenues aren’t likely to recover for some years, possible more than 10. And, because those federal dollars are borrowed, adding to our federal deficit.

    Because we need to behave like grownups.

  4. SuperSub says:

    While I agree that states and districts need to tighten their belts in this recession… the argument of teacher vs student percentage growth seems a little misleading.
    I know that many of the staff added recently in schools near me have not been to reduce class sizes or the class loads of standard teachers, but have been hired to meet mandates regarding special education and heterogeneous grouping.

  5. I’m with SuperSub on this.

    Also, it might bear a careful look at how much spending has gone into upper level administration and support staff for upper level administration. Our district is demanding sacrifices from teachers and classified staff–while not doing the same for central office staff. Those of us who work with kids are having to deal with heavier workloads as well as potential income cuts–while upper level, non-building level management takes the cuts but doesn’t have to take on additional responsibilities or heavier workloads like we do.

    Flies in the face of any good management theory…but as those of us in the trenches know, “apply business techniques to education” doesn’t mean apply the best techniques, it only means apply the worst techniques.

  6. It’s not like the schools were like the banking industry, asking to be bailed out after creating the financial crisis themselves.

    Really? What about the schools that continue to hire stadff as enrollments go down? What about schools that continue to fail? One thing fersure – they’ll all have their hands out for more.


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