President Obama Urges Recovery Efforts to Keep Teachers in the Classroom

In a ceremony honoring the 2010 National Teacher of the Year, President Barack Obama stressed the importance of economic recovery efforts to ensure that hundreds of thousands of other educators across the country continue doing what they do best: teaching their students.

“Recovery efforts must continue as states face budget shortfalls that put hundreds of thousands of jobs at risk,” said President Obama. “Because we need—our children need—those teachers in the classroom.”

The Keep Our Educators Working Act, recently introduced by Senator Tom Harkin, the chair of the Senate Education Committee, would provide $23 billion to fund state and local education jobs.

The bill continues the recovery efforts of the administration’s American Recovery and Reinvestment Act, and the successful State Fiscal Stabilization Fund. It has already been cosponsored by more than twenty senators.

At the ceremony, President Obama thanked NEA President Dennis Van Roekel, Sen. Tom Harkin (D-Iowa) and Representatives Dale Kildee (D-Mich.) and Rep. Leonard Boswell (D-Iowa) for their leadership on these efforts.

“As educators continue to face layoffs across the country, we must remember what this means for our students and their futures,” said Van Roekel. “Massive class sizes, less attention to individual student needs, fewer services—all mean our children won’t receive the education they need. How can we give our children a world class education when teachers and other education personnel are in unemployment lines instead of in classrooms and schools?”

The NEA’s 3.2 million members have been contacting their members of Congress to support the Keep Our Educators Working Act.

President Obama honored Sarah Brown Wessling as the 2010 National Teacher of the Year at a White House ceremony recognizing her and the other finalists for their dedication to improving the lives of their students.

Senator Harkin applauded Wessling, who is from his home state of Iowa, and said the best way to honor all teachers is to allow them to keep teaching and caring for their students. Teacher layoffs, which are expected to number as many as 300,000, would affect millions of students.

“Job losses of this magnitude would take a terrible toll on our education system, resulting in bigger class sizes, fewer program offerings and less time for students to learn in school,” he said. “The Keep Our Educators Working Act would help keep educators like Sarah Brown Wessling in the classroom.  Kids only get one shot at an education, and it’s up to us to make sure it’s a good one.”

© 2010 Photo by Chris Kleponis/CCSSO. Courtesy of the Council of Chief State School Officers. All Rights Reserved.