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Harkin bill would provide relief for education jobs being cut across country

Most states would receive more aid under an education jobs bill than a Race to the Top grant

WASHINGTON - April 21, 2010 -

According to new figures released by the National Education Association, most states would receive more education funds under an education jobs bill pending in the Senate—the Keep Our Educators Working Act of 2010 (S. 3206)—than they would if they were awarded grants under round two of the administration’s Race to the Top competition. 

The NEA document shows that President Obama’s home state of Illinois, for example, would get more federal funds under S. 3206—$978 million—than it would if the state were to win a Race to the Top (RTTT) grant. The maximum award under RTTT would be $400 million, according to Department of Education guidelines for each state.  

“Now is not the time for competition,” says NEA President Dennis Van Roekel. “Competition is a luxury our states should have during a budget surplus, not when they are facing record deficits and slashing jobs. Our children’s future should not depend on whether their state or district receives a competitive grant.” 

In Illinois, education stands to lose $1.3 billion in state funding, which would translate into 20,000 teacher layoffs. Today in Springfield, as many as 15,000 union members are expected to rally at the state Capitol to express support for a one percent income tax increase that would generate funds to save nearly a thousand education jobs across the state.

The Senate bill introduced last week by Sen. Tom Harkin (D-Iowa), chair of the Senate Education Committee, would provide $23 billion to extend the already successful State Fiscal Stabilization Fund under the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (ARRA). Harkin said the Keep Our Educators Working Act would offer a one-year influx of money to fund state and local education jobs.

“Students need teachers and support workers helping them, protecting them, inspiring them, and educating them every single day,” said Van Roekel. “We have an ailing economy, and education is the medicine. Our educators are in our schools every day administering the cure.”

NEA is now projecting more than 150,000 educator layoffs in the next three months, which will affect millions of public school children. That’s more teachers than in the entire states of Indiana, Massachusetts, and North Dakota combined (NEA’s Rankings & Estimates 2009–2010).  According to the Department of Education, only about 10 to 15 states may share in the remaining $3.4 billion that is estimated to be available from the competitive Race to the Top grants.

School budgets across the country have already been cut to the bone, with some districts moving to four-day school weeks, cutting programs or even closing schools. These layoffs and cuts are coming at the same time that schools are facing demands for better academic outcomes.

“This crucial education funding would save hundreds of thousands of education jobs, and it would be a tremendous help to states in dire financial circumstances,” said Van Roekel. “But more importantly, it ensures that millions of America’s students will not have to bear the brunt of our nation's economic woes.”

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The National Education Association is the nation’s largest professional organization, representing
3.2 million elementary and secondary teachers, higher education faculty, education support professionals, school administrators, retired educators and students preparing to become teachers.

CONTACT: Sara Robertson  (202) 822-7823,


  • How will the education jobs bill affect educators? NEA Vice-President Lily Eskelsen explains.

  • NEA VP Lily Eskelsen speaks to ABC affiliate KGO in San Francisco about educator layoffs across the country. Click to listen

  • NEA VP Lily Eskelsen speaks to Univision about educator layoffs across the country. Click to watch