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The American Jobs Act and science labs

By Francis Eberle

Posted on 2011-09-12

NSTA Executive Director Francis Eberle

NSTA Executive Director Francis Eberle

Last week President Obama introduced his new American Jobs Act, which included provisions that will impact schools, teachers and, specifically, science labs.
A press release on the American Jobs Act claims that “as many as 280,000 education jobs are on the chopping block in the upcoming school year. These cuts could have a significant impact on children’s education, through the reduction of school days, increased class size, and the elimination of key classes and services. The president’s plan will support state and local efforts to retain, rehire and hire early childhood, elementary and secondary educators (including teachers, guidance counselors, classroom assistants, after-school personnel, tutors, and literacy and math coaches). These efforts will help ensure that schools are able to keep teachers in the classroom, preserve or extend the regular school day and school year, and continue to support important after-school activities.”
The President proposes to spend $30 billion to prevent layoffs of up to 280,000 teachers and $25 billion for school infrastructure, which includes modernization and/or development of science labs. We all know it is economically tough time right now, and these are pretty big numbers. The President’s proposals are meant to address both short and a long term strategies. While no one wants to see teachers out of work, I think including education in a jobs bill can be confusing to many. Here’s why.
The President often speaks about his long-term goal to invest in our country’s future by putting money into the education infrastructure that prepares the U.S. future workforce Most agree that science, technology, engineering and mathematics education drives a major part of U.S. economic development.
In the short term the proposed funding from this plan will help some teachers keep their positions because the tax dollars and tax revenues used to support teacher salaries have been low for a third year in a row. Many school systems are operating at a 2008 budget level.
Yet In recent months Congress has been vigorously debating the vision for the country, a debate that largely centers on whose taxes can be cut or what program or budget reductions can be made. The irony of this approach is that it can lead to even less tax revenues and there will be more layoffs. (I know I am being political, but it is hard not to being here in D.C.)
I am curious, do you know of any science and technology teachers who are being or have been laid off recently? And what shape are your labs in, are labs something we should be investing in now? Let me hear your stories about whether we need to modernize science labs and classroom internet capabilities? What stories do you have from schools or individuals that would help to justify the President’s proposal?

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