Schools and teachers stand to benefit from an ambitious, $450 billion plan to boost jobs and put cash in the pockets of dispirited Americans, as President Obama responded to an economy in peril by unveiling his larger-than-expected jobs plan before a joint session of Congress Sept. 8.
Obama said his new plan would put thousands of teachers in every state back to work, and repair and modernize tens of thousands of schools.
The president said it’s not fair to American students that, while places such as South Korea are adding teachers, in the U.S. they’re being laid off. “This has to stop,” he said.
Obama’s plan would spend $25 billion on school construction to modernize at least 35,000 public schools, including spending on high-tech science labs, high-speed internet infrastructure, and emergency repairs. He would spend an additional $35 billion to prevent layoffs of up to 280,000 teachers and support the hiring of thousands more.
“There are schools throughout this country that desperately need renovating,” Obama said. “How can we expect our kids to do their best in places that are literally falling apart? This is America. Every child deserves a great school—and we can give it to them, if we act now.”
The renovations would help put unemployed construction workers back to work, Obama said. According to his plan, these and other infrastructure projects would be eligible for federal loans distributed by an independent fund based on two criteria: how badly a construction project is needed, and how much good it would do for the economy.
“This idea came from a bill written by a Texas Republican and a Massachusetts Democrat,” Obama noted in his speech. “The idea for a big boost in construction is supported by America’s largest business organization and America’s largest labor organization. It’s the kind of proposal that’s been supported in the past by Democrats and Republicans alike. You should pass it right away.”
Construction and education jobs were a small fraction of the president’s plan. Most of it focused on tax cuts for individuals and small businesses.