WASHINGTON—A laid-off teacher introduced President Obama in Mesquite, Texas, today, and the leaders of the United School Employees of Pasco joined Vice President Joe Biden in Florida, to highlight the urgent need for Congress to pass the American Jobs Act to stem the tide of teacher layoffs and disinvestment in public schools.
At Eastfield College in Mesquite, Texas, Obama was introduced by Kimberly Russell, a Dallas high school social studies teacher who began her career as a substitute teacher, then completed Dallas' alternative certification program to begin a second career as a teacher. For three years, her salary was paid through federal stimulus funds, and she lost her job when those funds ran out.
"Russell's story is troubling because her students need her in the classroom, not on the unemployment line," said AFT President Randi Weingarten. "The jobs bill could return Russell to the classroom where she belongs, and would prevent more layoffs and further erosion of our public education system."
Biden visited Oakstead Elementary School in Land O' Lakes, Fla., to meet with community members and educators in Pasco County. He discussed the impact teacher layoffs and budget cuts have on the quality of education for middle-class families and on kids' prospects for competing in the future. The Pasco County school district has eliminated 513 positions for the 2011-2012 school year—including eight out of Oakstead's 83 teachers—which will mean larger class sizes at area schools.
The American Jobs Act would prevent the layoff of 280,000 educators and create tens of thousands of jobs in education. The bill also would provide funding for the modernization of 35,000 schools nationwide to fix crumbling school infrastructure while creating thousands of construction jobs.
"Every day that passes means more unemployed teachers and other workers, continued health and safety hazards at schools, and less hope for our country's future," said Weingarten. "Majority Leader Eric Cantor should immediately bring the American Jobs Act to the House floor for a vote. The American people want Congress to stop playing politics as usual and do what's right for our kids and their future."