Washington, D.C. – Nevada Senator Harry Reid made the following remarks today on the Senate floor about putting teachers back to work. Below are his remarks as prepared for delivery:
Bart Giamatti, the kind of well-rounded man qualified to serve both as President of Yale and commissioner of Major League Baseball, once called education the “heart of a civil society.”
But he also said the heart of education “is the act of teaching.”
The commitment to educate the children of this nation is our greatest investment in our collective future.
It is the key to keeping the American Dream alive, and crucial to staying competitive in a global economy.
Teachers are the stewards of that investment. But the terrible recession that has rocked our national economy has threatened their ability to give our children the education they deserve.
Since 2008, state and local budget cuts have cost this country 300,000 education jobs. Nearly 200,000 of those jobs were lost in the last year alone.
Schools are feeling the pinch of larger class sizes, especially at the elementary and middle-school levels. The number of children in elementary school classrooms has a direct correlation to student achievement, and even to college graduation rates.
Districts have also shortened school days and school years, and eliminated summer school programs that help underprivileged children compete.
And they’ve cut art and music classes and after school activities that keep students engaged and prevent everything from high school dropouts to juvenile delinquency to teen pregnancy.
But while these cuts have been difficult, things could be much worse.
The Recovery Act and the Education Jobs Fund provided money to keep 422,000 teachers in the classroom for a year.
School districts across the country used that federal funding to keep class sizes small and ensure students are getting the world-class education they deserve. They used the funding to ensure America’s children are trained for the jobs of today and prepared for the challenges of tomorrow.
Still, as the economy continues to struggle, so do state and local budgets. And that means schools that are already doing more with less will continue to be at risk.
Although Democrats have saved hundreds of thousands of teacher jobs already, schools have still lost 300,000 educators since this recession began.
And the brain drain could get even worse.
State and local budget cuts could cost as many as 280,000 teacher jobs next year alone unless we do more.
That’s why President Obama proposed we invest $30 billion as part of the American Jobs Act to keep our schools well-staffed and ensure our children are well-educated.
Republicans blocked that job-creating legislation, which would have put 2 million people back to work in classrooms and construction sites across the country.
But Democrats haven’t given up on keeping our schools fully staffed. Nearly 300,000 teacher jobs are at risk, and so is the quality of our education system.
Unless local school districts get a helping hand, many will be forced to make more difficult choices between laying educators off or going without schoolbooks, paper and other supplies.
Democrats will pursue the President’s plan to keep nearly 400,000 teachers and support staff where they belong – in the classroom. A $30 billion investment will help local school districts not only avoid layoffs, but also rehire tens of thousands of teachers who have already lost their jobs because of budget cuts.
We will also commit $5 billion to retaining the police, firefighters and first responders who work so hard to keep our communities safe, and to rehiring those who have been laid off during these tough economic times.
Our economy cannot afford to lose any more jobs.
Our communities cannot afford to lose the men and women who keep us safe and secure.
And our nation cannot afford to lose the competitive edge a world-class education system gives us in a constantly changing world.
Democrats are committed to protecting the heart of education Bart Giamatti spoke of – the talented teachers who will shape our civil society.