This week, I spent some time talking with college students about how we can make higher education more affordable. And one of the things I told them was how proud I was that they were making that investment in themselves – because in today’s economy, the best predictor of success is a good education.
That’s not just true for our individual success; it’s also true for America’s success. New jobs and new businesses will take root wherever they can find the most highly-educated, highly-skilled workers. And I want those workers to be American workers. I want those good-paying, middle-class jobs to take root right here.
So it should concern everyone that right now – all across America – tens of thousands of teachers are getting laid off. In Pennsylvania alone, there are 9,000 fewer educators in our schools today than just a year ago. In Ohio, the number is close to 7,000. And nationwide, over the past three years, school districts have lost over 250,000 educators. Think about what that means for our country. When there are fewer teachers in our schools, class sizes start climbing up. Our students start falling behind. And our economy takes a hit.
The point is: teachers matter. One study found that a good teacher can increase the lifetime income of a classroom by over $250,000. A great teacher can change the course of a child’s life. So the last thing our country needs is to have fewer teachers in our schools.
Now, I know states are still going through some tough times. I realize that every Governor is dealing with limited resources and many face stark choices when it comes to their budgets.
But that doesn’t mean we should just stand by and do nothing. When states struggle, it’s up to Congress to step in and help out. In 2009 and in 2010, we provided aid to states to help keep hundreds of thousands of teachers in the classroom. But we need to do more. That’s why a critical part of the jobs bill that I sent to Congress back in September was to help states prevent even more layoffs and rehire even more teachers who had lost their jobs.
But months later, we’re still waiting on Congress to act.
When it comes to this recovery, we can’t fully control everything that happens in other parts of the world. But there are plenty of things we can control. There are plenty of steps we can take, right now, to strengthen our economy. Putting teachers back in our kids’ classrooms is one of those steps. And there’s no excuse for inaction. You work hard. Your leaders should, too. Especially at this make-or-break moment for the middle class.
I know this is an election year. But some things are bigger than an election. Some things are bigger than politics. So I hope you’ll join me in telling Congress to do the right thing; to get to work and to help get our teachers back in the classroom. We can’t afford to wait any longer.
Thanks and have a great weekend.