President Obama on Saturday said school districts around the country could begin rehiring the more than 300,000 teachers and other education workers who have lost jobs since 2009 if congressional Republicans would pass his stalled jobs bill.
“The jobs bill that I sent to Congress last September included support for states to prevent further layoffs and to rehire teachers who’d lost their jobs. But here we are — a year later with tens of thousands more educators laid off — and Congress still hasn’t done anything about it,” the president said in his weekly radio address.
“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,” he said. “That’s the opposite of what we should be doing as a country.”
According to a report released Saturday by the White House, student-to-teacher ratios climbed from 15.3-to-1 in 2008 to 16-to-1 in 2010 as states and local school districts laid off more than 300,000 teachers and education workers.
The plea for more funding drew an enthusiastic thumbs-up from one of Mr. Obama’s biggest political allies, the National Education Association, the nation’s largest labor union.
“President Obama is recognizing the importance of smaller class sizes in student achievement and the detrimental effects budget cuts have on our students, and we applaud him for that,” NEA President Dennis Van Roekel said in a statement. “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.”
House freshman Vicky Hartzler of Missouri gave the Republican radio response, criticizing the Democrat-controlled Senate for leaving town on summer recess without taking action on pressing issues, including drought relief for Midwest farmers.
“Like you, I was relieved earlier this month when the House passed a bipartisan measure helping farmers devastated by the ongoing drought. A lot was riding on this bill, but the Senate, a body controlled by the president’s party, left Washington for the month of August without even bringing it to a vote,” Ms. Hartzler said.
“The president has seen fit to politicize this issue, but the fact is he didn’t urge the Senate to act,” she said.
Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney released his own prerecorded address Saturday criticizing the White House, accusing the president of siphoning funds from Medicare to fund the Affordable Care Act.
“It’s outrageous that the president took $716 billion out of the Medicare trust fund to pay for Obamacare,” Mr. Romney said.
“No president should put in jeopardy your benefits.”