Protecting students from the Great Recession

While right and left disagree on the details of what caused the Great Recession, one thing is clearly not in dispute. No 5-year-olds entering school for the first time took out subprime mortgage loans, no 4th-graders traded in over-leveraged credit default swaps, and no high-school band class voted to give CEOs exorbitantly high wages while the bank they managed was failing.No matter what your politics are – right or left, liberal or conservative – you can’t possibly place the blame for the economic meltdown that began in 2008 at the feet of schoolchildren.Fortunately, in the first week of August, the U.S. Senate approved the Education Jobs Fund, legislation that will bring $40 million in taxpayers’ dollars back to New Hampshire to keep teachers in our local classrooms. This will help keep class sizes manageable. This will help keep educators working. This will help guarantee that students in New Hampshire aren’t punished for being school-aged during this recession.We applaud Sen. Jeanne Shaheen and our members of the House of Representatives, Paul Hodes and Carol Shea-Porter, for their support of this important legislation.Make no mistake, cuts to teaching staffs now would have a lasting impact on those children unlucky enough to have reached school-age during the Great Recession. It would have hurt the students of the meltdown era in two crucial ways that can’t be quickly corrected.First, these cuts would force newer teachers out of the profession at a time when New England has the oldest teacher population in the nation. Second, it would drive up class sizes at a time when our competitors overseas are already teaching the next generation of workers in smaller and more hands-on classes than we are in the United States. Finally, this will help redress the chronic problem of New Hampshire sending significantly more money to Washington than we get back in federal spending.Since the passage of the Tax Reform Act of 1986, New Hampshire has seen the amount of federal spending returned to the state drop nearly 30 percent – to just 71 cents per dollar – in the money that the federal government returns to New Hampshire’s highways, veterans’ hospitals and clinics, and children in our classrooms.From this year’s heat wave to our increasingly contentious campaigns for the U.S. House and Senate in New Hampshire, a sluggish recovery has made short tempers shorter all summer long. But Congress has given people in New Hampshire and throughout the nation reason to be a little more optimistic during leaf-peeping season.Rhonda Wesolowski is president of NEA-NH.

Categories: Opinion