Volume 16 Issue 3
By Frank Wells
CTA Secretary-Treasurer Mikki Cichocki urges Congress to support President Obama's Jobs Act at a Los Angeles news conference.
On Oct. 21, education, community, and labor leaders gathered at a news conference in Los Angeles to urge Congress to pass President Obama’s Jobs Act and to help put millions of Americans back to work. Just the previous day, the Senate had blocked the “first responders” portion of the legislation, which would have authorized $35 billion to keep educators and public safety workers on the job.
The president first proposed the jobs package in early September, unveiling an initiative based on bipartisan ideas that would provide tax relief to small businesses and workers and billions of dollars in infrastructure and education investment. When the entire package was blocked by the Senate in early October, the president vowed to press ahead by breaking the bill into individual pieces of legislation. First up on Congress’s plate was the teacher jobs component.
“Americans deserve an explanation from lawmakers who oppose putting teachers, police, and firefighters back to work,” said CTA Secretary-Treasurer Mikki Cichocki. “Congress needs to step up to the plate. Educators are fed up seeing our students go without, while banks are being bailed out, and the poor and middle class are being shut out. That’s why movements like Occupy Wall Street are building momentum and why they have our support.”
Cichocki was joined at the news conference by other supporters of the Jobs Act, including United Teachers Los Angeles President Warren Fletcher, California Federation of Teachers President Joshua Pechthalt, Los Angeles County Federation of Labor Executive Secretary-Treasurer Maria Elena Durazo, and California Courage Campaign founder Rick Jacobs, as well as two Californians who are struggling with long-term unemployment. Earlier in the week, Jacobs had delivered 27,000 signatures to House Speaker John Boehner urging passage of the Jobs Act.
Student CTA President Samantha Pullen pointed out the benefits the Jobs Act would have for higher education students and pressed for a fairer tax system. “SCTA believes our education system is undervalued,” she said. “We need to close [tax] loopholes and increase the size of the entire pie, not just our portion. The divide between the haves and have-nots is growing.”
Although the teacher/first responder component has been blocked for now, other sections of the Jobs Act could still benefit schools. A $25 billion school modernization program would help at least 35,000 schools nationwide and create up to 36,600 California jobs, and a $5 billion community college package would help modernize the state’s college campuses.
Additionally, as Congress’s “supercommittee” nears its Nov. 23 deadline to cut $1.3 trillion to $1.5 trillion from the budget, it’s critical that lawmakers hear that creating and protecting jobs should be a higher priority than harmful across-the-board cuts that would hurt schools and other programs.