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In this week’s CommenTerry, I examine the school personnel section of President Obama’s American Jobs Act.

Bulletin Board

  • Hear about the Civitas Partisan Index, the Civitas Action Conservative Rankings, Redistricting, and a 2011 Session recap. Keep up-to-date about what is going on in North Carolina using tools developed to keep the government accountable and the people well informed. The tour resumes on September 20 with stops in Hickory and Hendersonville. They will make stops in Waynesville (September 21), Boone (September 21), Cornelius (September 22), and Greensboro (September 22). Price is $5 for members, $10 for nonmembers, and $15 at the door. Breakfast will be provided. Register online at or call 919-834-2099.
  • The John Locke Foundation is sponsoring a Citizen’s Constitutional Workshop on Saturday, October 22 from 9:30 am to 3:00 pm at Village Hall in Pinehurst, NC. Historian Dr. Troy Kickler and political science expert Dr. Michael Sanera will discuss "What would the Federalists and Anti-federalists say about the current political and economic crises?" The cost is $8.00 per participant, lunch included. Pre-registration is strongly suggested. For more information or to sign up for the event, visit the Events section of the John Locke Foundation website.
  • The North Carolina History Project would like educators and homeschool parents to submit lesson plans suitable for middle and high school courses in North Carolina history. Please provide links to NC History Project encyclopedia articles and other primary and secondary source material, if possible. Go to the NC History Project website for further information.
  • Do me a favor. Visit JLF’s research newsletter archive.


President Obama’s $450 billion American Jobs Act includes two main public school components. Last week, I discussed his $25 billion program to renovate 35,000 public school facilities. This week, I tackle the second proposal, a $30 billion proposal to fund approximately 280,000 public school jobs. There is a reason why Obama settled on this number. According to Representative George Miller, a Democrat from California, an estimated 290,000 educators have lost their jobs since September 2008. (After all, this job loss IS George W. Bush’s fault!) Miller contends that this job loss has produced larger class sizes and "damaging pauses" to teaching careers. Representative Miller does not indicate whether personnel changes led to declines in student performance during this period.

There are problematic aspects of the bill itself. For example, the legislation would authorize Secretary of Education Arne Duncan to award up to 50 percent of the funding to a state agency or other state entities if a governor were to refuse to apply for funds or fail to meet the application deadline. In other words, the bill would allow Arne Duncan to "work around" a stubborn governor who worried, perhaps justifiably, about long-term implications of accepting these funds.

Of course, a prudent governor would have serious reservations about accepting American Jobs Act dollars. Like American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (stimulus) funds, the American Jobs Act would require states and school districts either to lay off educators or raise taxes to pick up the tab for the salary and benefits of thousands of public school employees after federal funding expires. Many elected officials at the state and local levels have no patience for federal programs that force them into "no-win" situations.

Speaking of winning, passage of the American Jobs Act in its current form would give the National Education Association (NEA) and the American Federation of Teachers (AFT) a big win. The addition of 280,000 public school employees would boost membership rolls and teacher-union coffers. In fact, the American Jobs Act is nothing more than a federally sponsored membership drive for the NEA and the AFT. That is one of the main reasons why both unions enthusiastically support President Obama’s proposal. Of course, this union money finds its way into the campaign accounts of presidential candidates like Obama and Democratic congressman like Miller. Democrats and unions go together like peas and carrots.

Most Republicans and a number of Democrats in Congress do not share Obama’s enthusiasm for the plan. The bill is an equal-opportunity disappointment. Some Congressional Democrats oppose proposed tax cuts, while others have pledged to join Republicans and vote against legislation that includes tax increases. At this point, it is not clear how much of Obama’s original American Jobs Act will survive Congress, but I suspect that the final bill will include some form of education personnel funding.

Fortunately, there is one guarantee. I will include updates on the American Jobs Act in future newsletters.

Random Thought

Everyone knows that Krispy Kreme perfected the glazed doughnut. Recently, the company unveiled a line of coffees worthy of their doughnuts. Sweet!

Facts and Stats

Education proposals in President Barack Obama’s American Jobs Act:

  • $30 billion: Used to fund approximately 280,000 public school jobs over two years. It would provide $900.3 million in funds to North Carolina to support up to 13,400 educator and first-responder jobs. (The White House did not specify how many of each would be funded.)
  • $25 billion: Renovation of 35,000 public school facilities, including science labs and Internet-ready classrooms. North Carolina would receive $675.7 million in funding to support as many as 8,800 jobs.


I would like to invite all readers to submit announcements, as well as their personal insights, anecdotes, concerns, and observations about the state of education in North Carolina. I will publish selected submissions in future editions of the newsletter. Anonymity will be honored. For additional information or to send a submission, email Terry at [email protected].

Education Acronym of the Week

AJA — American Jobs Act

Quote of the Week

I could repeat what I wrote last year about ‘Edujobs,’ explaining how it undercuts supes [superintendents], school boards, and union leaders who are trying to rationalize outlays and benefits. I could repeat some of the concerns I raised when ARRA [the stimulus] was being debated in spring 2009. I could explain how this is merely another push to kick the can down the road on hard but important choices, meaning schools and districts will just delay the day of reckoning, while locking in another year of problematic benefit obligations. I could point out that it means treating schools as a jobs bank rather than organizations that stand to benefit from streamlining (hard for me to think of anything less likely to breed professional respect for teachers than treating schools as a make-work jobs program).
– Rick Hess, "That’s Really All He’s Got," Rick Hess Straight Up, Education Week blog, September 9, 2011.

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