President Obama calls on Congress to act on educator layoffs


by Félix Pérez

At a time when the rest of the world is racing to out-educate America; these cuts force our kids into crowded classrooms, cancel programs for preschoolers and kindergarteners, and shorten the school week and the school year.

-President Barack Obama, August 18, 2012

The new school year has begun or is soon to begin. For way too many students, though, that means larger class sizes and fewer school programs because of continuing educator layoffs — 7,000 last month alone — according to a White House report released yesterday.

President Barack Obama, in his weekly address to the nation, called on Congress yesterday to prevent further layoffs and rehire educators who have lost their jobs.

“Teachers matter. Most work tirelessly, with modest pay, sometimes digging into their own pocket for school supplies – just to make a difference. They give everything for our kids – and in return, we should invest in them,” said President Obama.

According to the report, “Investing in Our Future: Bringing Teachers Back to the Classroom,” more than 300,000 local education jobs have been slashed since 2009, resulting in a 4.6 percent increase in the teacher-to-student ratio from the fall of 2008 to the fall of 2010.

The report states, “A detailed look at the evidence – based on well-designed randomized experiments – confirms that larger class sizes have lasting negative effects: lowering high-school graduation rates, reducing the chance that students take college entrance exams like the ACT or SAT, and lowering the chance of college enrollment and completion.”

President Obama urged Congress to act on the jobs bill he sent to Congress last September, which provides states support to keep teachers in the classroom. “But here we are – a year later with tens of thousands more educators laid off – and Congress still hasn’t done anything about it.”

Arizona high school math teacher and National Education Association President Dennis Van Roekel applauded the president for recognizing the importance of class size in student achievement. “Class size is a critical piece of the school improvement puzzle and we cannot ignore the positive effect that personalized learning has for kids. As the president has said, when we are looking for solutions that work, let’s not overlook common sense fixes like smaller class size and early education.”

Van Roekel criticized presidential candidate Mitt Romney for his assertion that there is no link between class size and student performance. “Gov. Romney has made it clear that he doesn’t believe in the impact of keeping class sizes small, despite evidence to the contrary and despite what parents across this country know.”

In his book No Apology, Romney wrote, “The effort to reduce classroom size may actually hurt education more than it helps.”

Recently, Romney’s class size claim was challenged during a roundtable discussion he participated in with Philadelphia teachers.

“I can’t think of any teacher in the whole time I’ve been teaching, for 10 years, 13 years, who would say that more students [in the classroom] would benefit,” said one of the teachers to Romney. “And I can’t think of a parent that would say I would like my child to be in a room with a lot of kids and only one teacher.”

Reader Comments

  1. Decent paying jobs for the middle class is what is needed to keep the USA strong.

    Jobs began leaving in the 60s with the outsourcing of the garment factrories to South America, then the shoe factoriies left, then in the late 60s RCA began to manufacture TVs in Japan, but when US Steel went under in the 70s, people became concerned.

    By the late 1980s and 90s, Corporate CEOs and their marketing teams, had perfected a business model that was being presented in seminars to business leaders across the USA with PowerPoints, graphs and charts showing how offshoring to by-pass the USA wage could boost the bottom line..

    Then, when NAFTA was signed in 1994, it was the beginning of the end for the planets most magnificent “industrial belt” (that has become the “rust belt” in just 20 years). But in 2001, when China joined the WTO, even our jobs in Mexico left for China ($1.36/hr. avg. wage now, let alone what it was in 2001) and we are a nation in decline with a staggering trade deficit and an even more staggering national debt.

    And now that money is tight because our once dynamic middle class economic consumerism powerhouse has been decimated, public workers are on the chopping block, while the real perpetrators, the real culprits of our demise are sitting in CEO executive suites charting the course for USA corporations that have evolved into “multinationals.”

    These “multinationals” are some of the most profitable corporations this world has ever seen! Exxon/Mobile makes $140 BILLION/yr. GE makes $30 BILLION/yr, etc, Caterpillar, Dell, HP, GM, Ford, Scott Paper, Mattel, Apple, Inc., you name it. They have all taken the corporate model and put it to use, kicking the USA worker to the curb and into the unemployment lines.

    Yet Free Trade Agreements bind the mighty USA economy and allow TARIFF FREE access to our still potent, but dwindling middle class market to fleece it for all its worth as our nation declines into irreparable debt and trade deficits even as our “multinationals” are the benefactors of RECORD profits that have exceeded a $$$TRILLION recently. And these and vast profits are legally parked in off-shore accounts with impunity to avoid contributing ANYTHING to the USA treasury, their biggest market.

    Now to get to my point: The USA tax code is repleat with loopholes (exemptions, credits, write-offs, even subsidies) that not only help off-set the liabilities of setting up a factory in China, for instance (factory purchase/lease or building project, equipment, machinery, payroll, but also energy efficiency installments, modernization investments, and retooling/maintainence investments, etc.), but also amount to $ HUNDREDS OF BILLIONS of tax-payer dollars being granted to these already extremely profitable corporations.
    The double whamy occurs when these TARIFF FREE cheap imports, made at pennies on the dollar, hit our shores invariably under-selling Made In USA, putting holdouts to the offshoring trend out of business, leaving surviving small businesses cutting costs to the bone, creating downward pressure on wages that remain, and helping Red China catch up to the mighty USA in just 10 years. What we didn’t GIVE them in patents, industrial models, trade secrets, and yankee know how, they’ve reverse engineered or stolen. While our entreperneurs seek investors to fund their great ideas and get them manufactured, China will steal, manufacture, and market them before we can set up an assembly line.

    Finally, my rant has been critical of multinationals and corporate CEOs who I’ve blamed for perpetrating this mess, but it is not really their fault. Like Mitt Robme, who has parked his vast wealth in offshore accounts, they’ve done all this within the confines of the existing laws and tax structures BIG $$$ has lobbied for, bought, and paid for with their $$$ for access to Congress. (Citizens United (2010) may have been the last nail in the coffin of the middle class as we move toward a Plutocratic State.)
    To save the USA, we need to impose steep tariffs on cheap goods flooding our shores, scrap our ad infinitum adherance to FTAs like the WTO (Germany levels a 19% tariff on imports to protect their industrial base without so much as a slap on the wrist form the WTO), and require that if businesses want access to the USA consumeristic market, they manufacture here or forfeit tax breaks to subsidize offshoring jobs. We need to start playing for keeps and start building our middle class back again!

  2. You can’t layoff teachers and think the economy will get better. Fewer teachers, larger classrooms, more cute to public education equal a higher drop out rate and more people NOT getting the careers that will pay them enough money to live well. Art, GONE! Music, GONE! Library time, GONE! We are right where the politicians have put us. Bail out Educators!!!

  3. Put teachers back in the classroom, work to improve the quality of our teachers, keep the good ones and get rid of the others, find a fair and measurable way to do this. At the same time protect teachers from arbitrary dismissal and allow teachers to collective bargain in order to receive the pay and benefits their work deserves.

  4. Large classrooms are the answer to public schools but how many students were in Mitt Romney’s elementary public school classroom? How large were his high school classes at the exclusive boys school Cranbrook?

  5. I am a teacher in Maryland. The reason they are laying off teachers nation wide is because there is no money to fund them. The reason there is no money to fund teachers is there is not enough revenue in the local juristictions. The reason the locals do not have money is because people are loosing their jobs and can not afford to buy homes and pay the taxes that are used to fund the schools. It is a vicious circle. More taxes is not the answer to any of the financial problems affecting this great nation. We need to put people back to work and the rest of it will fall into place. It does not take a rocket scientist to figure this one out for goodness sake. Please stop muddying all of the issues with poliitics.

  6. I was just informed today that one of our eighth period classes was cancelled, meaning that the students which had been assigned to that class period are now being distributed between the other 2 classes. Our numbers are now at 35 students for a sixth grade. This will help education? Would I choose to have MY child taught by a teacher with 20-25 students in a class or 35+?

    1. need to put people back to work so that they can afford to buy homes and pay the taxes used to fund all aspects of education

  7. I teach in an award winning elementary school that is also a Title One school. We have a high percentage of our students who are living at or below the poverty level. We have always had 3 second grade teachers ( I am one of them), but due to budget cuts we have eliminated one classroom. Consequently, I have 34 students in my classroom.

    It is a disgrace, that in the greatest nation of the world, our most vulnerable young students are forced to learn in a situation with so many. I SERIOUSLY doubt Mr. Romney would have tolerated this type of learning environment for HIS OWN children.

  8. My class “maximum” is 37 for 7th grade science, sometimes we get 38 and 39–sometimes I’ve had up to 42–I don’t have enough seats–literally–not enough chairs and tables. The kids sit at my desk, in corners, wherever I can squeeze in a desk or table and chair.

    I’d like to see Mr. Romney teach my classes for a month without any assistance–with just the equipment and supplies I have and see how his test scores come out.

  9. Teachers “touch the future” and need help and financial support to perform this extremely important job. Cuts in school funding and the “teacher bashing” does not encourage good students to choose teaching as their profession.

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