Education Funding and Budget

Nearly 2 million education jobs could be lost—unless the U.S. Senate acts

By Amanda Litvinov / photo of Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell: AP Photo/Patrick Semansky

If the economic damage wrought by the coronavirus pandemic goes unchecked, the nation stands to lose 1.89 million education jobs over the next three years, according to new analysis by the National Education Association 

Stated another way, we could lose one-fifth of the workforce that powers public schools and higher education institutionsThose cuts will not only impact the educators who receive those pink slips and their families. It will also profoundly impact the 50 million students who attend public schools and their families 

No community would go unaffected, but the looming cuts will disproportionately affect students of color. They are more likely to attend schools that rely on federal funding to lower class sizes, provide specialists, and sustain a rich curriculum in schools that serve high concentrations of lower-income students.

Colorado music teacher Yolanda Calderón. Her state could lose nearly 30,000 educators in the pandemic recession.

There are just so many people we need in schools to make everything run, to make students feel safe, and to give them dependability,” says Yolanda Calderóna music teacher at Wheeling Elementary, a Title I school in Aurora, Colorado.  “We can’t provide all of that if we’re down almost 2 million education jobs. 

Only Congress can mitigate the damage, by taking swift action to dedicate funding for education to lessen the number of job losses and stabilize public schools.  

The U.S. House of Representatives did its part, passing the HEROES Act (Health and Economic Recovery Omnibus Emergency Solutions) on May 15. The bill includes $915 billion in direct relief for state and local governments that can be used to pay vital workers such as educators. It also includes $90 billion in additional education funding to help save educator jobs.  

If senators pass the HEROES Act, more than 800,000 education jobs could be saved—more than 673,000 K-12 and 153,000 higher ed jobsthe NEA data shows. But the Senate has yet to take up the next COVID-19 relief package, and Majority Leader Mitch McConnell has indicated that he doesn’t intend to address it anytime soon. 

“I think about a month from now we’ll take a look at how things are going and be able to make a more intelligent decision,” McConnell said at an event in Kentucky on May 21. By that date, the pandemic had already killed nearly 100,000 Americans and left 40 million jobless—roughly a quarter of the U.S. workforce. 

“The American economy cannot recover if schools can’t reopen, and we cannot properly reopen schools if funding is slashed and students don’t have what they need to be safe, learn and succeed,” says Lily Eskelsen García, NEA President and elementary school teacher from Utah. 

The longer Congress delays, the more likely it is that financially strapped state and local governments will cut essential student services and lay off tens of thousands of educators.  

 

You can help: Urge your senators to stabilize education funding.

 

State budgets decimated as schools face greater needs 

Over the next three years, state budget shortfalls will likely be the largest on record, far worse than those of the Great Recession (2009-2013), according to projections by the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities 

The NEA research is a conservative analysis focused only on losses to state general funds, where most state support for education and higher education comes from. Some studies that include shortfalls to other state and local revenues show even deeper education cuts are possible.  

The Great Recession led to a loss of more than 350,000 educator jobs. The recovery was gruesome and incompleteNearly a decade later, 29 states were still providing less total school funding per student than they were in 2008, and states are still down 135,000 jobsresearch  shows. 

Those numbers are devastating. But the pandemic recession could be six times as bad for education without federal intervention. 

Public education job losses were already greater by April 2020 than in all of the Great Recession, with a loss of 468,800 jobs in local public school employment aloneAcross the entire education sector, 760,000 jobs have already been lost, according to Bureau of Labor Statistics.  

As a music teacher entering her tenth year of teaching, Colorado’s Yolanda Calderóhas often had to worry that her job might be on the chopping block. Her chief concern is what students like hers—mostly students of color, many of whom are immigrants and refugees—will miss out on. 

“These cuts will take away opportunities from some kids who, without public schools, don’t have access to things like music, which have historically been for more affluent and privileged people,” says Calderón. 

“It’s one thing to be an adult living through this, which is hard enough,” she says. But it’s another thing to say to a five-year-old, ‘Now we’re not going to have P.E. or art, or the other things that made you excited to come to school.’” 

Colorado alone will lose nearly 30,000 educators if the Senate doesn’t pass the HEROES Act. Those cuts invariably lead to ballooning class sizes—conditions that are antithetical to CDC recommendations on reopening schools safely.  

NEA represents more than 500,000 education support professionals, who will be critical to re-opening schools safely. © 2016 NEA / Moses Mitchell Photography

More maintenance staff will be needed to clean all spaces in school buildings, and more bus drivers will be needed to transport children who are social distancing. There should be at least one school nurse in every building to oversee health screenings. 

Between personnel needs, upgrades to ventilation systems in older buildings, and adequate cleaning supplies and personal protective equipment, an average school district with around 3,700 students could be facing another $1.8 million in additional costs, a new study shows. 

Educators are also speaking up to advocate for separate funding dedicated to narrowing the digital divide and closing the homework gap, to ensure that students of color, lower income students, and those in remote areas can fully access distance learning. 

And so far, schools do not have the support they need from the federal government. 

Senators must act now to protect our children from the harmful effects of these extreme budget cuts at the state and local levels,” says NEA President García 

“The American economy cannot recover if schools can’t reopen, and we cannot properly reopen schools if funding is slashed and students don’t have what they need to be safe, learn and succeed.” 

Demand the Senate take action now so schools can re-open safely.

202 responses to “Nearly 2 million education jobs could be lost—unless the U.S. Senate acts

  1. Our children are our future. Please do not take their right to an excellent education.
    Our teachers need additional funding to secure this fundamental needs for education.
    Our teachers are your children’s lifeline for a successful future.
    Please do NOT cut reading teachers. ALL children need reading for the fundamental learning device.
    Please fund our schools and all other needed workers.

    1. I agree. Kids are literally our future. They have to pass the heroes act. If they can spend 1.75 billion dollars for a new FBI facility then surely they can make sure our kids are safe and have access to their education. Not to mention the teachers! We’re asking them literally to risk their lives. Studies show that the amount of virus you initially inhale is a factor in how sick you can get. Schools are like incubators. They need good air filtration equipment installed. It’s not too much to ask.

  2. Don’t lay anyone off, teachers, policemen, firemen, etc.. Donald Trump has been talking about getting the economy going again. Any more layoffs is unacceptable.

  3. Senators of Oklahoma, the majority Republican Senate is refusing to act on a third bill to address jobs and health issues that already exist. The third bill also addresses education funding for teachers and students. You need teachers to TEACH the kids. I spent one year teaching 45 second graders in a room with no windows. They made progress but not ENOUGH. If you care about the future of kids and education in Oklahoma, you will step up.

  4. There are other jobs beside teaching. I’m tired of hearing them go on and on about everybody owes them. You chose your path.

    1. What is your job? Do you thank the teachers who helped you learn what you needed to know to get the job?

      1. The NEA is addressing internally some of the issues anti-education advocates are making and in many cases non education jobs are as expendable in a crisis.

    2. With that mentality, there would be no teachers. Also, you owe teachers.
      Because of teachers, you were able to write this narrow-minded post.

    3. Here’s an idea: fight with us, not against us, to help us get what we need. Then you won’t have to hear from us so much! We did choose our path; we did NOT choose to be disrespected, underfunded, underpaid, under-supported, overcrowded, over-burdened, and overwhelmed in our chosen profession.

  5. In corporate America, people who work for large corporations give yearly raises and bonuses I am a special needs parapro, I was scheduled to have a 3% raise this year, which would have been the first raise in 12 years! That was eliminated and forlough days were added this year. Those are days that I am not eligible for unemployment. We need more funding for our schools. We need to retain all of our employees. Parents expect alot from us and we freely give it. Why does the federal and state government even have right to dictate what the average person wants in their schools. Resource officers, cafeteria employees, custodian staff, bus drivers and monitors are just as important to students. These are the first to be cut. PE, music are barely available, why?

  6. I am a music teacher. I know first hand how vital the arts were to my life as a student—they are what made school my passion and drove my success in other areas. These creative experiences are what allow us to feel, allow us to breathe in the middle of a busy day, and connect us. Please do your part to fully fund our schools and ensure that “specials” remain a beautiful art of the school day. These students are going to need the arts more than ever as they rebuild their “new normal.”

  7. I am a first grade teacher and parent. We are going to need a lot of resources to keep the children and staff safe through this pandemic, and continue to provide the best education possible. Please fully fund our schools.

    1. Please do the right thing and allocate funding for public schools this year. Without it, schools will have to make cuts to their teaching and paraprofessional staff which only hurts the kids attending school.

      1. Please do the right thing and allocate funding for public schools this year. Without it, schools will have to make cuts to their teaching and paraprofessional staff which only hurts the kids attending school.

    2. I am a special needs teacher and parent in Texas. We are going to need a lot of resources to keep the children and staff safe through this pandemic, and continue to provide the best education possible. Please fully fund our schools.

  8. If we can dump ANOTHER trillion dollars into the stock market, we can find money to help our teachers and our students. Please help.

    1. If we can dump ANOTHER trillion dollars into the stock market, we can find money to help our teachers and our students. Please help.

  9. Please continue to increase funding to our schools. During this pandemic our families and students have learned how much they need teachers to educate our students in our schools. Our educators are important essential workers, shaping and facilitating the leaders of tomorrow.

    1. Please continue to increase funding to our schools. During this pandemic our families and students have learned how much they need teachers to educate our students in our schools. Our educators are important essential workers, shaping and facilitating the leaders of tomorrow

  10. Education is the key to success. You have it within your power and authority to fully equip and fully fund every school in America. What a legacy it would be for you to see the wisdom in providing the highest education possible in the entire world from Pre K through 12 through the HEROES ACT. Leveled with financial equity, all schools would be given the ability to provide the the most effective academic instruction while maintaining and upgrading the facilities for student and community benefit. The passing of the HEROES ACT helps to ensure the “blessings of liberty to ourselves and our posterity…” and gives the students in our country’s care a hand up towards, “life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.” Without it, we are looking at a longer struggle for educational greatness, inequity between economic and social communities. Without its passing, we are facing time consuming and difficult struggles which our students now in the conveyor belt of learning do not have. So, please, pass the ACT and allow our schools to function and be as great as they surely are with the right amounts of funding to be healthy and strong, mentally and physically, so our kids can be healthy and strong as well. Thank you..

    1. Education is the key to success. You have it within your power and authority to fully equip and fully fund every school in America. What a legacy it would be for you to see the wisdom in providing the highest education possible in the entire world from Pre K through 12 through the HEROES ACT. Leveled with financial equity, all schools would be given the ability to provide the the most effective academic instruction while maintaining and upgrading the facilities for student and community benefit. The passing of the HEROES ACT helps to ensure the “blessings of liberty to ourselves and our posterity…” and gives the students in our country’s care a hand up towards, “life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.” Without it, we are looking at a longer struggle for educational greatness, inequity between economic and social communities. Without its passing, we are facing time consuming and difficult struggles which our students now in the conveyor belt of learning do not have. So, please, pass the ACT and allow our schools to function and be as great as they surely are with the right amounts of funding to be healthy and strong, mentally and physically, so our kids can be healthy and strong as well. Thank you..

  11. I am Special Education Teacher and our students need the opportunity to thrive and learn with the highly qualified staff around them. Please fund our classes. Our students and their families depend on us teachers!

    1. Education for persons with disabilities have advanced a lot recently. NEA teachers are now leading the effort to shed the “right to choose your student” mindset from quality teachers. Now, let’s show the public not hitting students with needs can be damaging to evaluations.

  12. I am not a Parent or a teacher, but I am a citizen of the United States, and I know that without healthy school systems, and the good teachers to work with our youth we will not have a healthy economic system, will not have intelligent decision-makers, we will not have creative thinkers and planners. Please support our educators and school systems.

  13. Education is necessary to our country. Our children are our future.
    Please approve the HEROES Act. Take the responsible actions to preserve America by voting to quickly fund the Heroes Act.

    1. As a retired special ed and 2nd grade teacher, I know how critical education and personal contact with teachers, other students and support staff is to all children. in spite of popular belief, children are not safe from serious health consequences and death from Covid-19.It is necessary that when schools do open, that all possible proven safeguards are put in place to hinder transmission of the virus to and between students, staff and all school personnel. please approve the HEROES Act. Our children and all school employees are depending on your persuasion of recalcitrant GOP colleagues to support and hopefully vote for the successful passing of this act.

    2. Funding for education should be a top priority. These kids are our future. Why is education the first thing government cuts. Please do not cut funding for education.

  14. Funding for education should be a top priority. These kids are our future. Why is education the first thing government cuts. Please do not cut funding for education.
    P

  15. Our country cannot afford further cuts to education. The future of our nation is at stake and I hope action will be taken to secure our schools.

  16. The current national discussion on racism, violence and authority is living proof of our need for culturally relevant education. Support our schools now! Educators are outnumbered, underpaid and underfunded for the challenges their going to face in in 2020’s aftermath.

  17. Dear Senator Feinstein,

    Despite rumors in abundance of Trumpf’s plans to steal the 2020 presidential election, please make contract renewal and re.opening of public schools starting Aug.2020 a top priority.

    Best regards,
    Dave Picariello
    Substitute Teacher’s Aide
    SFUSD

  18. I am a special education NBCT teacher on a reservation here in Arizona. Please make sure funding for public education happens. We are still trying to figure out how to serve our students who may or may not have electricity, internet, and/or a device to learn from home.

  19. I am a veteran second grade teachers with 33 years of service in my district. While I know we have committees figuring out what next year will look like going back, and the state produced a set of guidelines to be used by districts to guide their plans, there are so many questions of “what ifs”. Virtual learning was not conducive to learning new skills. I felt like it was just based on assigning work and optional participation. In a class of 19 students I would rarely get more than 13-14 students on a given day. Why couldn’t we just push the calendar year back until things settle down especially in FL where many families will vacation from out of state and our COVID numbers are increasing daily? Kids need hands-on learning and socialization. Laying off teachers when actually we need more is beyond my understanding.

    1. We have lost so many lives in the black and brown communities in this country, please let us not also loose the education our next generation.

  20. I work in a special education classroom and I know what I do has a huge impact on our students’ lives. Education is vital to our students’ lives and the future of our country. Tomorrow’s leaders are in our classes today. Please fund the schools and do not lay off any staff. Our students need us! Please continue and increase funding to our public schools!

  21. Gentlemen, please move promptly to approve the HEROES Act. Recovery from this pandemic-fueled recession is dependent upon schools reopening safely and with increased finances in order to meet many of the needs specifically caused not only by the pandemic, but also from decreased percentage of funding before the pandemic. Our children are our future and we need to provide a solid and safe educational base for them. Many of them already lost valuable learning time due to early school closures and lack of technology, especially for children of families of lesser incomes. I don’t want to cheat my students or die myself due to lack of appropriate sanitary conditions. Take the responsible actions to preserve America by voting to quickly fund the Heroes Act.

  22. Please continue to fully staff & increase funding to our schools. This shutdown is temporary. Our need for continued & improving public schools, fully staffed to provide a good & improving education to all children, is a permanent need. Do not gut the school system & the economy by making cuts now.

  23. I am a Special Education teacher that knows what I do has a huge impact on my students’ lives. Education is vital to our students’ lives and the future of our country. Tomorrow’s leaders are in our classes today. Please fund the schools and do not lay off teachers. Our students need us!

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