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Saturday, August 18, 2012

Obama Attacks Republicans Over Teacher Layoffs


WASHINGTON - President Obama on Saturday bashed Congressional Republicans - and by association, the Romney campaign - for failing to prevent teacher layoffs made by cash-strapped state and local governments.

In his weekly address, Mr. Obama noted that education employment has fallen by 300,000 jobs since 2009. He pushed for Congress to help stem the job losses and called the Republican approach to education financing “backwards” and “wrong.”

“The economic plan that almost every Republican in Congress voted for would make the situation even worse,” Mr. Obama said, referring to a budget put forward by Representative. Paul D. Ryan of Wisconsin, Mitt Romney's running mate.

“It would actually cut funding for education - which means fewer kids in Head Start, fewer teachers in our classrooms and fewer college students with access to financial aid - all to pay for a massive new tax cut for millionaires and b illionaires.”

Mr. Ryan this year put forward a budget with significant cuts to nondefense discretionary spending, a category that includes federal money for education. The Republican-controlled House passed the budget proposal, but it failed to pass the Democrat-controlled Senate.

If Mr. Ryan's cuts were evenly distributed among budget programs, in the White House's analysis, it would eliminate funding for 38,000 jobs for teachers and aides, and a further 27,000 jobs for educators working with children with disabilities and special needs.

In his American Jobs Act, Mr. Obama included a $30 billion proposal to prevent an estimated 280,000 teachers and other education workers from getting laid off. The legislation failed to make it through Congress. He included $25 billion to prevent education layoffs in his 2013 budget proposal.

“The jobs bill that I sent to Congress last September included support for states to prevent further layoffs and to rehir e teachers who'd lost their jobs,” Mr. Obama said in his weekly address. “But here we are - a year later with tens of thousands more educators laid off - and Congress still hasn't done anything about it.”

Mitt Romney's campaign has made school choice the centerpiece of its education proposal. The candidate proposes transforming federal education programs into a kind of voucher system, giving parents and students funds to attend the school of their choosing.

In the Republican response to the weekly address, Representative Vicky Hartzler of Missouri bashed Mr. Obama as a poor steward for the recovery.

“The House has passed more than 30 jobs bills that eliminate excessive red tape, empower small businesses, and approve the Keystone XL pipeline - a critical project the president and his party continue to block,” Ms. Hartzler said.

Mr. Obama's address coincided with the release of a White House report quantifying education job losses and detailin g the knock-on effects, like bigger classrooms and shorter school years.

The loss of state and local jobs has proved a persistent drag on the economy, even as private employers have added millions of workers to their payrolls since the recession officially ended in June of 2009.