A bill signed by President Barack Obama on August 10th was supposed to save teachers’ jobs. It was a $26 Billion dollar spending bill that allocated $10 billion for education spending so school districts could rehire laid off teachers or prevent districts from having to fire more teachers. Speaker Nancy Pelosi thought it was so important that she called the House of Representatives back from August recess to pass it. However, there seems to be a problem.
A report that came out last week notes that some of the states who received the bailout funds were never actually in danger of having to lay off teachers. Some states that received funds when they did not need them, like Alaska and North Dakota, have no plans for how they will use the money.
And yesterday, the New York Times reported that the new stimulus money might not be used to re-hire teachers, stating:
But now that the federal government has come through with $10 billion, some of the nation’s biggest school districts are balking at using their share of the money to hire teachers right away. With the economic outlook weakening, they argue that big deficits are looming for the next academic year and that they need to preserve the funds to prevent future layoffs… In Arizona, where most schools opened this month, nonteaching employees are more likely to be recalled. ‘It would be hard to add teachers this year,’ said Paul Senseman, a spokesman for Gov. Jan Brewer. ‘But the funds could be used on any school-level position like counselors, after-school programs, aides, nurses or coaches.’… Though grateful for the aid, districts like Los Angeles are worried about how to create some budget stability year to year. In Pomona, Calif., the district has yet to decide whether to hire back about 68 teachers laid off in the spring.
But it gets better. When President Barack Obama signed the bill, he stated:
We can’t stand by and do nothing while pink slips are given to the men and women who educate our children or keep our communities safe.
American Enterprise Institute’s Rick Hess blogged about a conference call that Secretary of Education Arne Duncan was on. On the call Duncan stated:
Today’s historic vote means school officials won’t need to make those tough calls.
School districts are singing a different tune. Districts like Kansas City, Kansas and Las Vegas, Nevada, who could actually use the influx of cash, are wondering what they are going to do when the cash runs out. It doesn’t so much solve a problem as much as it simply prolongs a greater problem. So even with the money that was allocated, some school districts aren’t able to use the money to rehire teachers who have lost their job.
In New Jersey, where 3,000 teachers got laid off, Governor Christie’s administration worries that the Federal aid will only stall difficult decisions that will have to be made later on. It is a recurring theme. It is tough to make decisions based on a onetime cash infusion.
Heritage expert Lindsey Burke has a series of reports titled “Creating a Crisis” where she identified a few of the many problems in the current education system. She points out that states already squandered $100 billion in stimulus money.
A band-aid solution is not going to fix states’ fiscal problems. Comprehensive education reform – implementing merit pay for teachers to better target state resources, reforming hiring and firing practices, rolling back tenure and empowering parents – is the best solution. While there is no correlation between increased education spending and academic achievement, there are many ways in which resources can be better targeted at the state level. But in order to empower state and local leaders, the federal government must free states from the bureaucratic red tape that binds their hands.