Menus Subscribe Search

Follow us


Avoiding Teacher Layoffs With an Education Bailout

• May 04, 2010 • 4:23 PM

As hundreds of thousands of teachers and staffers brace for layoffs, there might be a federal bailout in their future, too.

The American Association of School Administrators commemorated National Teacher Day today with a depressing announcement, the result of its latest survey of school superintendents. About 275,000 of the teachers and support staff we’re all supposed to be thanking this week are likely to face layoffs before the coming school year.

What they need, more than apples, cookies or construction-paper cards: About $23 billion.

It’s “pink slip season” in public education, and in a quirk of recession economics, school districts across the country are on the verge of a crisis dramatically worse today than what they faced two years ago when the economy first started to dive.

Home foreclosures and high unemployment have wrecked education budgets funded largely by property and state income taxes. We appear now to be in a “jobless recovery,” with employment lagging behind every other indicator of economic improvement. As it turns out, lagging even further behind the jobs are the school budgets.

To make matters worse, the stimulus money — $100 billion of which went to education — is almost gone.

[class name="dont_print_this"]

Idea Lobby

THE IDEA LOBBY
Miller-McCune's Washington correspondent Emily Badger follows the ideas informing, explaining and influencing government, from the local think tank circuit to academic research that shapes D.C. policy from afar.

[/class]

“The train wreck of the foreclosure crisis, state budgets being in the tank and the recovery money running out really has caused a catastrophic event,” said Kim Anderson, director of the National Education Association‘s government relations department.

“The situation is as dire as we’ve ever seen it,” said Dan Domenech, executive director of the AASA.

He went on to quote a couple more stats: 82 percent of school districts are planning to eliminate positions in the coming year, and 63 percent of those layoffs will affect teachers. The ratio of teachers to students nationwide (a measure different from class size) will go from 15:1 to 17:1. And every 100,000 lost education jobs will lead to another 30,000 jobs lost elsewhere in the economy due to lower school spending and the decreased income of teachers.

The Recovery Act, by comparison, is estimated to have saved about 300,000 jobs in education.

“That would suggest,” Domenech added, “basically we’re going to wipe out all the gains as a result of the stimulus.”

To solve the problem, Sen. Tom Harkin, D-Iowa, has proposed a one-year, $23 billion “Keep Our Educators Working Act,” which has been heartily endorsed by both President Obama and Secretary of Education Arne Duncan. In the jargon of the day, the bill amounts to an education bailout.

“I kind of like that,” Domenech said of a word that’s become toxic in so many other settings. “We bailed out Wall Street, we bailed out the banks. It would be nice to bail out our kids.”

Never mind teacher appreciation week; now may be just the time to float the idea as Capitol Hill is swarming with bailed-out bankers lobbying against financial reform legislation.

As a country, can we possibly bail out Morgan Stanley and General Motors but not the Atlanta and Dallas public school districts? As far as necessary evils go, Congress has set the bar pretty low.

Still, Harkin’s bill currently has no GOP co-sponsors (although Anderson said she’s heard positive word from some Republicans who have not necessarily leant their names to the bill). Chief among their concerns is this comment from Sen. Lamar Alexander, R-Tenn.,: “I wonder from whose schoolchildren we are going to borrow this money.”

Proponents argue that future schoolchildren will lose out, too, if these 275,000 layoffs go down, setting a permanent lower baseline for school staffing levels.

If the bill does go through, Domenech says it will need one significant change from the earlier stimulus funds earmarked for education. Many states used those federal dollars to offset — not supplement — state funds for education, diverting the newly freed local money for non-education purposes.

Time is running out to pass the legislation, a one-year stopgap after which educators hope the economy — and their tax revenue and budgets — will finally stabilize.

“The window for us, I seem to think, is between now and Memorial Day,” Domenech said. “This thing basically has to happen this month. Otherwise, it’s not going to happen. This is the time districts are making those decisions and those pink slips are going out.”

Emily Badger
Emily Badger is a freelance writer living in the Washington, D.C. area who has contributed to The New York Times, International Herald Tribune and The Christian Science Monitor. She previously covered college sports for the Orlando Sentinel and lived and reported in France.

More From Emily Badger

A weekly roundup of the best of Pacific Standard and PSmag.com, delivered straight to your inbox.

Recent Posts

October 24 • 4:00 PM

We Need to Normalize Drug Use in Our Society

After the disastrous misconceptions of the 20th century, we’re returning to the idea that drugs are an ordinary part of life experience and no more cause addiction than do other behaviors. This is rational and welcome.


October 24 • 2:00 PM

A Letter to the Next Attorney General: Fix Presidential Pardons

More than two years ago, a series showed that white applicants were far more likely to receive clemency than comparable applicants who were black. Since then, the government has spent hundreds of thousands of dollars on a study, but the pardons system remains unchanged.


October 24 • 12:00 PM

What Makes You So Smart, Middle School Math Teacher?

Noah Davis talks to Vern Williams about what makes middle school—yes, middle school—so great.


October 24 • 10:00 AM

Why DNA Is One of Humanity’s Greatest Inventions

How we’ve co-opted our genetic material to change our world.


October 24 • 8:00 AM

What Do Clowns Think of Clowns?

Three major players weigh in on the current state of the clown.


October 24 • 7:13 AM

There Is No Surge in Illegal Immigration

The overall rate of illegal immigration has actually decreased significantly in the last 10 years. The time is ripe for immigration reform.


October 24 • 6:15 AM

Politicians Really Aren’t Better Decision Makers

Politicians took part in a classic choice experiment but failed to do better than the rest of us.


October 24 • 5:00 AM

Why We Gossip: It’s Really All About Ourselves

New research from the Netherlands finds stories we hear about others help us determine how we’re doing.


October 24 • 2:00 AM

Congratulations, Your City Is Dying!

Don’t take population numbers at face value.


October 23 • 4:00 PM

Of Course Marijuana Addiction Exists

The polarized legalization debate leads to exaggerated claims and denials about pot’s potential harms. The truth lies somewhere in between.


October 23 • 2:00 PM

American Companies Are Getting Way Too Cozy With the National Security Agency

Newly released documents describe “contractual relationships” between the NSA and U.S. companies, as well as undercover operatives.


October 23 • 12:00 PM

The Man Who’s Quantifying New York City

Noah Davis talks to the proprietor of I Quant NY. His methodology: a little something called “addition.”


October 23 • 11:02 AM

Earliest High-Altitude Settlements Found in Peru

Discovery suggests humans adapted to high altitude faster than previously thought.


October 23 • 10:00 AM

The Psychology of Bribery and Corruption

An FBI agent offered up confidential information about a political operative’s enemy in exchange for cash—and they both got caught. What were they thinking?


October 23 • 8:00 AM

Ebola News Gives Me a Guilty Thrill. Am I Crazy?

What it means to feel a little excited about the prospect of a horrific event.


October 23 • 7:04 AM

Why Don’t Men Read Romance Novels?

A lot of men just don’t read fiction, and if they do, structural misogyny drives them away from the genre.


October 23 • 6:00 AM

Why Do Americans Pray?

It depends on how you ask.


October 23 • 4:00 AM

Musicians Are Better Multitaskers

New research from Canada finds trained musicians more efficiently switch from one mental task to another.


October 22 • 4:00 PM

The Last Thing the Women’s Movement Needs Is a Heroic Male Takeover

Is the United Nations’ #HeForShe campaign helping feminism?


October 22 • 2:00 PM

Turning Public Education Into Private Profits

Baker Mitchell is a politically connected North Carolina businessman who celebrates the power of the free market. Every year, millions of public education dollars flow through Mitchell’s chain of four non-profit charter schools to for-profit companies he controls.


October 22 • 12:00 PM

Will the End of a Tax Loophole Kill Off Irish Business and Force Google and Apple to Pay Up?

U.S. technology giants have constructed international offices in Dublin in order to take advantage of favorable tax policies that are now changing. But Ireland might have enough other draws to keep them there even when costs climb.


October 22 • 10:00 AM

Veterans in the Ivory Tower

Why there aren’t enough veterans at America’s top schools—and what some people are trying to do to change that.


October 22 • 8:00 AM

Our Language Prejudices Don’t Make No Sense

We should embrace the fact that there’s no single recipe for English. Making fun of people for replacing “ask” with “aks,” or for frequently using double negatives just makes you look like the unsophisticated one.


October 22 • 7:04 AM

My Politicians Are Better Looking Than Yours

A new study finds we judge the cover by the book—or at least the party.


October 22 • 6:00 AM

How We Form Our Routines

Whether it’s a morning cup of coffee or a glass of warm milk before bed, we all have our habitual processions. The way they become engrained, though, varies from person to person.


Follow us


Politicians Really Aren’t Better Decision Makers

Politicians took part in a classic choice experiment but failed to do better than the rest of us.

Earliest High-Altitude Settlements Found in Peru

Discovery suggests humans adapted to high altitude faster than previously thought.

My Politicians Are Better Looking Than Yours

A new study finds we judge the cover by the book—or at least the party.

That Cigarette Would Make a Great Water Filter

Clean out the ashtray, add some aluminum oxide, and you've (almost) got yourself a low-cost way to remove arsenic from drinking water.

Love and Hate in Israel and Palestine

Psychologists find that parties to a conflict think they're motivated by love while their enemies are motivated by hate.

The Big One

One company, Amazon, controls 67 percent of the e-book market in the United States—down from 90 percent five years ago. September/October 2014 new-big-one-5

Copyright © 2014 by Pacific Standard and The Miller-McCune Center for Research, Media, and Public Policy. All Rights Reserved.