Fox News host Mike Huckabee argued today that creating jobs for teachers for the sake of boosting U.S. employment would be "nonsensical." In doing so, he ignored the sustained massive layoffs of teachers across the country since the end of the recession and the subsequent ramifications. In fact, there is every need to hire teachers during this recovery and not just because "you want to make some jobs," as Huckabee claimed.
Huckabee was responding to comments by President Obama calling on Republicans to pass his jobs plan, which Obama said "could create a million new jobs right now," including jobs for teachers and construction workers. Huckabee replied by saying:
HUCKABEE: The federal government doesn't hire teachers. Where do teachers get hired? Local school boards. Education is a local function not a federal function. It is not the job of the federal government to hire teachers.
And the other question is: Do you hire teachers 'cause you just want to make some jobs or do you hire teachers 'cause you actually need them 'cause you have more kids in the classroom than you had last year? That's a nonsensical kind of approach to job creation -- let's make some work, and let's just go into more debt to do it.
In fact, Obama was not asking the federal government to hire teachers; he was accurately noting the role government can play in staving off public sector job losses, which experts contend have played an especially detrimental role in swelling unemployment. From the Wall Street Journal:
The unemployment rate would be far lower if it hadn't been for those cuts: If there were as many people working in government as there were in December 2008, the unemployment rate in April would have been 7.1%, not 8.1%.
Ceteris is rarely paribus, of course: If there were more government jobs now, for example, it's likely that not as many people would have left the labor force, and so the actual unemployment rate would be north of 7.1%.
According to the Hamilton Project, teachers accounted for 220,000 of these public sector job loses from 2009 to 2011, a decline of 5.6 percent.
The Economy Policy Institute estimated that had the Jobs Act been enacted, "[a]id to state governments for rehiring teachers and first responders would have boosted employment by an additional 210,000 jobs," and that "[i]n total, full passage of the American Jobs Act would have increased employment by more than 1.6 million jobs."
This thinning of the teachers' ranks has not been good for students. A McClatchy Newspaper article detailed the effects of these teacher layoffs, quoting Tim Callahan, a spokesman with the Professional Association of Georgia Educators, who explained:
The larger classes are stressful for all teachers, but "particularly for our new teachers right out of school," Callahan said. "Suddenly they're looking at 34 or 35 high school students, so they really have to be part lion tamer, you know. It's tough. So the impact of increased class sizes is very negative."
In a March 2011 article, the New York Times reported that these layoffs "hurt school cohesion, undermine student achievement and rupture ties with parents." The article quoted Cleveland school superintendent Barbara Byrd-Bennett stating that layoffs due to budget cuts were "devastating for our classrooms."
In a May 20, 2010, report, the Center for Reinventing Public Education at the University of Washington explained:
When schools see more teacher turnover, established relationships are lost -- such as with families and teachers, between teachers, and with principals and teachers. Teacher turnover means that process of building and sustaining working relationships starts over. Additionally, site-based professional development and teachers reassigned may be unhappy in their new assignments. All of these factors work together to further destabilize schools with high turnover, to the detriment of students.