AFT president Randi Weingarten joined other labor and business leaders and economic experts at a Dec. 3 White House Jobs Summit convened by President Obama to share ideas on how to spur job growth.
"By convening this important jobs summit, President Obama showed he clearly understands the vital role that jobs creation and preservation play in calming the troubled economic waters," Weingarten says. "The administration also is to be applauded for engaging not just those who participated in the summit, but all who are committed to keeping Americans working.
"Thanks to the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act funding earlier this year, hundreds of thousands of teachers, professors and other school staff who were in danger of being laid off are in classrooms today, educating our children. The funding provided an essential lifeline when there was no other alternative, but the jobs of our kids' teachers are again at risk because of continuing budget struggles. Because the recovery is not yet where we would like, at least 46 states are wrestling with unprecedented revenue shortfalls that will directly affect education systems and make emergency aid to them a critical part of an overall jobs strategy.
"There is no pause button in children's education. They don't get a second chance because the economy is bad—and they need their teachers in classrooms, not on the unemployment lines.
"While keeping teachers in the classroom is essential, there should be additional efforts to invest in innovations such as community schools that become one-stop locations for health and social services, as well as other resources like workforce development in partnership with community colleges that children and their families need.
"Preserving teaching jobs preserves opportunities for our nation's youth. This is a time to reinvest in our children, not disinvest. We saw earlier this year that the Recovery Act's support for our kids and their schools worked. We must not back away from that commitment now."
During the summit's closing session, President Obama referenced one of Weingarten's comments from a small-group session on worker training. "Randi Weingarten of the AFT suggested a specific idea," he said, "community schools, especially in rural areas, where parents can get training after hours in the same place where their kids are learning during the day, and I think that's a terrific idea worth exploring." [AFT press release, White House Web site]
December 3, 2009