White House Report: 300,000 Education Jobs Lost

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(CNN) – Budget cuts are forcing districts to scale back on teachers and staff, resulting in larger class sizes and fewer school days, according to a White House report released Saturday.

More than 300,000 education jobs have been lost since the end of the recession in June 2009, said the report, which was prepared by the White House Council of Economic Advisers, Domestic Policy Council and National Economic Council.

“Think about what that means for our country. At a time when the rest of the world is racing to out-educate America, these cuts force our kids into crowded classrooms, cancel programs for preschoolers and kindergarteners, and shorten the school week and the school year. That’s the opposite of what we should be doing as a country,” the report quotes President Barack Obama from an address in June.

As a result of the cuts, the national student-teacher ratio increased from 2008 to 2010, from 15.3 to 16, the report said, reversing nearly a decade of gains. Typical class sizes are larger than the ratio because it includes teachers for students with disabilities and other special cases.

Some schools are also shaving the number of days students spend behind their desks by shortening the school week, school year and trimming programs like preschool and kindergarten, the report said.

The White House report, “Investing in our Future: Returning Teachers to the Classroom,” highlighted the potential consequences of such cuts: lower graduation rates and overall achievement levels. Obama also discussed teacher hiring his weekly address.

The report, which comes in an election year for Obama, also stressed the need to invest in education and praised Obama’s plan to provide $25 billion to prevent layoffs and strengthen public education, while slamming Republicans in U.S. House of Representatives for passing a budget that would cut non-defense discretionary spending by almost 20%.

Republican Mitt Romney’s education plan emphasizes school choice over efforts to reduce class sizes, a stance he said was backed by some studies, and his experiences as governor of Massachusetts. Earlier this year, he said he frequently heard teachers seek smaller class sizes, but some of the worst-performing schools in the state had small classes.

“Just getting smaller classrooms didn’t seem to be the key,” he said.

The White House report echoed some campaign rhetoric, urging action to keep students from falling behind and touting Obama’s American Jobs Act. The American Federation of Teachers and National Education Association released statements Saturday in support of Obama’s plan, warning of “poverty spiking and student enrollment increasing,” and calling class size “a critical piece of the school improvement puzzle.”

“The difference between the President’s education budget proposals and those of Congressional Republicans highlights a choice between two fundamentally different visions for our country,” the report said. “Nowhere is this contrast more clear than with regard to the choice about investments in teachers and educators as we enter the upcoming school year.”

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