Now that Parts 1 and 2 of this series have provided some context for President Obama’s Edujobs2 proposal, it’s time to answer the ultimate question: Given all the fuzzy numbers laid out in the previous two posts, what can we make of Edujobs2? As a recent Center for Education Policy report confirms, many districts are planning layoffs for the coming year, so there are jobs to be saved. And if districts use these funds in the same way that the Government Accountability Office says they used stimulus funds, then Edujobs2 will indeed save or create jobs. With few independent estimates of the number of jobs Edujobs2 could support, however, the best we can do is say that it could save up to 400,000 jobs, but it would likely be less, given the track record of the stimulus and Edujobs1.
In terms of the specific positions that Edujobs2 would save, it’s difficult to know what kinds of jobs – instructional vs. non-instructional – would ultimately be funded, though there is evidence that teachers have been a common target of layoffs during the recession. It’s also not easy to quantify how saving jobs would affect the quality of education. However, student achievement depends on high-quality teaching, so laying off teachers because districts have run out of money – rather than dismissing ineffective ones – is most likely not good for students.
In looking at the bigger picture, we know that having fewer unemployed workers can only help our dismal economy. But continuing with the “it’s hard to know” theme of this series, the questions posed in Part 1 just don’t have easy answers – despite what Edujobs2 proponents and opponents would have you believe.
Regardless of whether the new education jobs fund is ultimately created, school districts will continue to feel the squeeze until the economy recovers and state budgets improve along with it. Unfortunately, the Congressional Budget Office (CBO) projects that the American economy will grow slowly for the next two years, with unemployment remaining above 8% through 2013. Economic output won’t reach its full potential, the CBO expects, until 2017.
In light of these projections, what would happen when the proposed Edujobs2 funds run out in 2014 (as they would under the current plan)? If the CBO is right, the economy may be in better shape by then, but it won’t be back to normal for a few more years. Even if districts receive this third infusion of cash, many are still going to meet with that dreaded “funding cliff” when the federal money is used up. Sooner or later, no matter what happens here in Washington this fall, districts and schools are going to have to figure out how to do more with less.
Written by Education Sector policy intern Jennie Herriot Hatfield.