Tight school budgets have meant fewer teachers, larger classes, and shorter school years, according to a White House report that President Barack Obama says shows the need for Congress to pass his proposals to help states reduce teacher layoffs.
The study concluded that 300,000 education jobs have been lost since the official end of the recession in 2009 and that student-to-teacher ratios have increased by 4.6 percent from 2008 to 2010 and are on track to grow more.
“If we want America to lead in the 21st century, nothing is more important than giving everyone the best education possible—from the day they start preschool to the day they start their career,” Obama said in his weekly radio and internet address Aug. 18.
For Obama, the report offered a fresh chance to push a nearly year-old jobs plan he proposed that provided money for states to keep teachers, police officers, and firefighters on the job. The proposal included payroll tax cuts and jobless insurance provisions that Congress has passed. But other proposals in the plan have run aground amid mostly Republican opposition.
While the private sector has continued to create jobs, though at a sluggish pace, the public sector has been posting monthly job losses, contributing to an 8.3-percent unemployment rate.
Obama’s plan includes $25 billion in aid to prevent layoffs of teachers and pay for other education jobs. That is part of a broader effort to retain state and local government jobs.
The White House report was not a product of the Education Department. It was prepared by the president’s Council of Economic Advisers, his Domestic Policy Council, and his National Economic Council.
According to the report, average student-to-teacher ratios reached a low of 15.3 in 2008 but climbed to 16 students per teacher in 2010, equal to levels in 2000. The report acknowledges that typical class sizes are actually larger than those ratios, because the measures include teachers for students with disabilities and other special teachers who are excluded from class-size counts. It said that in many districts, class size is much higher because of steeper cuts in education budgets.
The report says that since the fall of 2010, local governments have cut about 150,000 more education jobs.