Can Obama save teacher jobs?

@CNNMoney September 8, 2011: 9:58 PM ET

NEW YORK (CNNMoney) -- President Obama is looking to send $30 billion to the states to stem the crush of teacher layoffs.

The proposal, unveiled Thursday night as part of Obama's jobs agenda, goes far beyond a $10 billion measure he signed last August to minimize the downsizing of teachers and first responders. That legislation is estimated to have saved 100,000 positions, while the Administration estimates its current proposal will prevent up to 280,000 teacher layoffs.

It remains to be seen, however, just what Congress will do with the president's plan. The teachers fund is competing with many other initiatives, including extending payroll tax cuts and unemployment benefits.

Republicans are not likely to look kindly on more support for states. They overwhelming voted against granting last year's assistance, but their views count more now since they gained control of the House in January.

Obama battles job crisis: 3 years...and counting

"There is a lot of opposition to anything that has the tag of stimulus on it," said Greg Daco, principal U.S. economist for IHS Global Insight.

There's no question the states and school districts sorely need the money. Facing a collective $103 billion budget gap and the loss of federal stimulus funds, governors and lawmakers deeply slashed state aid for education this year.

New York's school districts, for instance, have lost more than $3.2 billion in state aid in the past three years. This has resulted in a loss of more than 20,000 jobs, said Richard Ianuzzi, president of the New York State United Teachers union.

"Every time the federal government tries to create jobs, the state contributes less and less," Ianuzzi said.

Around the nation, some 85,000 school personnel lost their jobs this summer, bringing the total to 290,000 since September 2008. The profession went from one of the more secure to one of the more endangered in the public sector.

But it would have been even worse without last year's federal injection, as well as the $39 billion states received from the 2009 Recovery Act.

"That money didn't replace all the cuts, but it helped cushion the blow," said Randi Weingarten, president of the American Federation of Teachers.

Even though the school year has already started, districts can still adjust their budgets and restore positions and programs.

"It's not too late," said Dan Domenech, executive director of the American Association of School Administrators. "They would still be able to to use it to reduce class sizes and bring back teachers."

And the funds will help more than just schools, some economists argue. Both teachers and districts spend a lot of money in their communities, fueling economic growth and preserving jobs in the private sector.

"The cuts the states have made are a real drag on the economy," said Michael Leachman, director of state fiscal research for the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities. To top of page

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