In a conference call with more than 2,000 educators earlier this week, Vice President Joe Biden provided specifics on how the $447 billion American Jobs Act will help save educators jobs and modernize school buildings across the country. Biden urged all educators to call their representatives and senators to push for a quick passage of the bill. Earlier in the day, Biden and President Obama spoke with National Education Association President Dennis Van Roekel about the legislation and its impact of educators and schools. Van Roekel participated in the call, along with American Federation of Teachers President Randi Weingarten.
The American Jobs Act, Biden said, is about “helping middle class Americans get their head above water in this tough economy. And the quintessential middle class person is the American school teacher.” The jobs package would prevent the layoffs of up to 280,000 teachers and rehire tens of thousands more, repair and modernize 35,000 schools, and upgrade community colleges nationwide.
Earlier in the day, President Obama hosted educators, police officers, firefighters, veterans and small business owners at a Rose Garden event to announce he is sending the bill to Congress.
“All across America, teachers are being laid off in droves — which is unfair to our kids, it undermines our future, and it is exactly what we shouldn’t be doing if we want our kids to be college-ready and then prepared for the jobs of the 21st century,” Obama said.
In his call with educators, Biden laid out specific provisions of the American Jobs Act and how they would be funded.
The bill calls for $25 billion to repair and modernize 35,000 schools and $30 billion to prevent the layoffs of up to 280,000 educators. The repair funds can be used for a range of emergency repair and renovation projects, greening and energy efficiency upgrades, asbestos abatement and removal, and modernization efforts to build new science and computer labs and to upgrade the technology infrastructure in schools. In addition, the bill includes a $5 billion investment in modernizing community colleges. Biden explained that $10 billion would go to the 100 largest “high-need” districts and then the remaining $15 billion would be given to states to allocate. States would have the flexibility to direct those funds to additional high-need districts.
The $30 billion for educator jobs will support state and local efforts to retain, rehire, and hire early childhood, elementary, and secondary educators (including teachers, guidance counselors, classroom assistants, afterschool personnel, tutors, and literacy and math coaches).
Biden noted that these funds come with restrictions so that states can not divert the money away from education, for example, toward paying down budget deficits. He also explained how the American Jobs Act would not add to the national debt. To pay for the bill, the administration is proposing closing oil and gas loopholes, increasing taxes on certain income made by hedge fund managers, and changing the tax treatment of corporate jets.
“Those oil and gas companies say they don’t need these tax breaks, so why are we giving it to them? What’s a better use of $30 billion? A tax break for oil and gas or saving the jobs of 280,000 educators?” Biden asked. “It’s just not fair!”
NEA President Van Roekel followed Vice President Biden on the call and said educators across the nation are ready to issue a challenge to Congress to put aside the partisanship and pass the bill.
“Educators see the impact of the economy every day,” Van Roekel said. “They see it in their students. They see it in the colleagues who have lost their job. The American Jobs Act is a win-win for local communities, for the middle class and for students.”
“We’re going to work to make this happen. This jobs bill must pass.”
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Video: President Obama in Columbus, Ohio – September 13