WASHINGTON — A Minnesota teacher became a part of President Barack Obama’s pitch for Congress to pass his American Jobs Act on Tuesday.
Campaigning for the bill in Texas, Obama focused on its benefits for the education sector, saying the $30 billion the AJA would provide to states could save 280,000 teachers’ jobs and create nearly 120,000 new ones. The bill would spend more than $500 million to support 6,900 education jobs in Minnesota, according to a White House report.
Obama spent nearly the first half of his speech talking about the education benefits the White House says the bill would provide. He alluded to decreasing state funding for K-12 education and the layoffs that follow, using a Minnesotan as an example.
“I met a first-grade teacher from Minnesota at the White House who was laid off after having been named the Teacher of the Year in her school district,” he said, alluding to former Becker teacher Lisa Bruska, who attended a White House event last month. “Her peers, students, determined she was the best teacher in her school district — she got laid off.”
(Bruska, for her part, told KARE 11 in September that she supports the legislation.)
Tom Dooher, the president of Education Minnesota, the state’s largest teachers union, said the White House’s job estimates for Minnesota might be a bit high, that doesn’t change the group’s support for the legislation. Dooher said the federal government is best positioned to help bolster the ranks of teachers across the country by investing in schools, something many state governments have cut back on.
According to the White House report, budget cuts have forced state and local governments to shed nearly 300,000 educator jobs since 2008. In Minnesota, the state Legislature has delayed more than $2.1 billion in K-12 payments during the last two budget cycles. Since the 2009-10 school year, at least 2,275 licensed and non-licensed teachers in the metro area have been laid off, according to the Association of Metropolitan School Districts.
“We need to invest in our schools,” Dooher said. “That is the best long-term effort to keep our economy strong.”
Republicans have opposed the American Jobs Act as a whole on the grounds that it’s too expensive and unlikely to effectively put the country back to work. House Republican leadership plans to take up sections of the bill, but the chamber is unlikely to support the high spending and increased taxes required to pay for it.
As chairman of the House Education and the Workforce Committee, Minnesota Republican John Kline is unique among the Minnesota delegation in influencing the course of the AJA through Congress. House Majority Leader Eric Cantor has asked all committees to hold hearings on the economic effects of relevant parts of the AJA, meaning Kline’s committee will, at some point, hear testimony on the teaching provisions the White House outlined Monday.
There is no word on when an education-specific hearing will happen, but Kline himself has taken a hard stance against the jobs legislation in its current form.
“No amount of stump speeches or sales pitches can erase the President’s disappointing track record with this economy,” Kline’s spokesman, Troy Young, said Monday. “His call for another half-trillion dollars in stimulus spending ignores the reality that his $1 trillion stimulus of 2009 created debt, not jobs.”
Devin Henry can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.