Washington, D.C. – Nevada Senator Harry Reid made the following remarks today on the Senate floor regarding state and local cuts to education in Nevada. Below are his remarks as prepared for delivery:
America’s education system is under siege. The terrible recession that has put millions of families in our country in a desperate economic situation has also put our schools at risk.
Since 2008, this country has lost 300,000 education jobs, including nearly 200,000 in the last year alone. And without talented, dedicated teachers and support staff, our schools cannot provide the world-class education students need to succeed in today’s difficult economic climate.
As state and local governments are forced to slash education funding again and again, it jeopardizes the futures of millions of children – regardless of where they live or how much money their parents make.
Nevada is facing a $1.2 billion budget shortfall in 2013, practically ensuring further cuts to state and local education. But Nevada can ill afford to lose more teachers, police and first responders.
The state has already slashed state education funding below pre-recession levels. And additional cuts will place thousands of Nevada teacher jobs at risk.
School districts in Nevada have already made difficult cuts – laying off teachers, eliminating programs and reducing the number of hours children spend in school.
The state has delayed expansion of all-day kindergarten, eliminated resources for gifted and talented programs and cut a magnet program for students who are deaf or hard of hearing.
Further cuts will affect the basic pillars of American education.
Already the school board in Lyon County, a rural part of Nevada, has considered moving to a four-day school week.
Students in the United States already spend much less time in school than students in other countries, including those with whom we compete for jobs. Most American pupils spend a month less in the classroom than those in South Korea and Japan, whose students are among the highest performing in the world.
At a time when Nevadans are competing for jobs with graduates from countries around the world as well as those in neighboring states, school districts shouldn’t be forced to make decisions like the one facing Lyon County.
The Teachers and First Responders Back to Work Act, filed last night and led by Senator Menendez, will ensure the Lyon County School District won’t have to choose between laying teachers off and reducing the school year.
And it will protect gains made by school districts like the one in Washoe County, which increased its graduation rate from 55 percent to nearly 70 percent.
Budget cuts would threaten that progress. The district can’t expect to improve on these gains if it has to jam more students in every class and lay off literacy and math specialists.
The Teachers and First Responders legislation will stem the loss of education jobs and help districts like Washoe continue to improve.
This legislation will provide Nevada with an additional $260 million to keep teachers in the classroom and maintain class sizes. It will support 3,600 education jobs in the state and give the economy a jolt.
And it won’t add a dime to the deficit. Instead, it asks millionaires and billionaires to contribute a tiny fraction more – one half of one percent more – to help turn our economy around. That’s an idea two-thirds of Americans and a majority of Republicans support.
This nation’s schools have already been hit hard by state and local budget cuts. We cannot afford to lose more teachers, or to lay off more police or first responders.
In Nevada, local governments have already made the difficult choice to cut 8,800 jobs. These unprecedented layoffs have extended the recession and slowed the recovery in Nevada.
And further budget shortfalls threaten thousands more jobs. Nationwide, state and local budget cuts could cost as many as 280,000 teacher jobs next year unless we act.
This Teachers and First Responders legislation will invest $30 billion to create or save nearly 400,000 teacher jobs. That money will help states and school districts stop more layoffs, and rehire tens of thousands of teachers laid off since this severe recession began.
It will also invest $5 billion to retain and rehire the police, firefighters and first responders who have protected our communities throughout tough economic times.
That is why it is so important that the Senate move quickly to this legislation.
I hope that we will be able to work together to finish the three appropriations bills before the Senate this week without the kind of obstructionism we have seen over the last 10 months.
Teachers out of work through no fault of their own and students who desperately need a good education are relying on us to act.