Laid-Off Educators Go to Washington to Fight for Jobs

By Kevin Hart

Lee Libby, a 25-year teaching veteran, has spent her career encouraging her students to do the right thing. Today, she went to Capitol Hill to make the same plea to the Untied States Senate.

Laid-off music teacher Lee Libby meets with Sen. Olympia Snowe (Photo: Pat Ryan)

Libby, a music teacher from Poland, ME, was one of five recently laid-off educators who came to Washington, D.C. today to urge the Senate to pass a $10 billion education jobs fund that is projected to save 138,000 education jobs. The funding has already been passed by the U.S. House of Representatives.

Libby met with Sen. Olympia Snowe (R-ME), to encourage her to support the funding that will keep educators on the job and prevent ballooning class sizes and cuts to essential programs and services.

“It’s the students who’ll suffer the long-term consequences,” said Libby. “Students who are at-risk and students for whom music is an avenue for learning will suffer the most. They only get one chance at an education.”

Libby was joined on Capitol Hill by four of her educator colleagues, who all have been laid off and who all share Libby’s concerns about what will become of their students and schools if the Senate does not act quickly on the education jobs funding.

North Carolina teacher Bethany Banks met with Sen. Kay Hagen (Photo: Pat Ryan)

Bethany Banks, a laid-off educator from North Carolina, enjoyed an early-morning coffee with Sen. Kay Hagan (D-NC), and made her case for the education jobs funding. Banks lost her job when her Title I school combined Kindergarten and first grade classes to save money.

Even before she was laid off, Banks told Hagen she was seeing damaging effects from cuts to the school’s supplies budget.

“Some of the things the school normally provides, I had to buy on my own or put on the student supply list,” she said. “The problem is many of the parents in my area have low incomes too and can’t pay that much.”

Carla Lowe of Louisiana met with the staffs of Sen. David Vitter (R-LA) and Sen. Mary Landrieu (D-LA) and advocated for swift Senate action to help her and her Louisiana colleagues return to work. Laid-off teacher Jefrrey Williams pressed the case to Sen. Claire McCaskill (D-MO).

Louisiana guidance counselor Carla Lowe, right, meets with staff of Sen. David Vitter (Photo: Pat Ryan)

John Lynch, a laid-off elementary school teacher from Brockton, MA, met with Sen. Scott Brown (R-MA) and urged him to support the funding, which is projected to save 2,400 education jobs in Massachusetts.

Some districts are moving to four-day school weeks, cutting critical services and programs for kids, and, in some places, even closing entire schools. These layoffs and cuts are coming at the same time that schools are facing rising demands for better academic outcomes.

“The Senate must act swiftly to pass the emergency funding bill so that we can stave off more economic damage to our schools,” said NEA President Dennis Van Roekel. “We can’t afford to give children an IOU because of our nation’s economic woes.”

Cynthia Kain and Colin Berglund also contributed to this report.