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Richard Burr 'Couldn't Imagine' Acting to Avoid Mass Teacher Layoffs

Jeremy Sprinkle
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Party politics trumps doing anything for N.C.

The effects of the Great Recession have been devastating to our state's budget. Tax collections are down due to massive job losses and reduced consumer spending while increased demand for public services like unemployment threaten North Carolina's ability to fund its single largest expenditure - public education. The result has been major cuts to education - $789 million and the layoff of 3,700 teachers statewide this year.

Under Gov. Perdue's new budget, school districts would have to find another $215 million in cuts for next year. Recently, Durham Public Schools announced 263 more teachers will lose their jobs, and Charlotte Mecklenburg Schools are considering laying off up to 600 teachers for the 2010-11 school year. That's on top of the 238 teachers at CMS who lost their jobs this year.

While the Recovery Act of 2009 provided $100 billion in emergency aid to the states for education, most of that money was spent this year. Nationwide, hundreds of thousands of teachers face losing their jobs at the end of June if nothing is done to avoid drastic cuts in education to balance state budgets.

Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pension Committee chairman, Tom Harkin (D-IA), has introduced a $23 billion education jobs bill to prevent these massive teacher layoffs next year. The National Journal reports Sen. Harkin can expect no support from his Republican colleagues, including Sen. Richard Burr:

Another GOP member, Richard Burr of North Carolina, said he hadn't seen the bill but "couldn't imagine" he would support it, positing that it's not the role of the federal government to hire teachers.

It's not just public education that will suffer because of these layoffs, notes Pat Garofalo, economy reporter for the blog Think Progress:

Leaving aside the detrimental effect these layoffs will have on schoolchildren, preserving these jobs acts as economic stimulus, because instead of going on unemployment benefits, these teachers and other employees keep collecting a paycheck, spending money, and boosting demand. But Burr can’t find it in his head to imagine a situation in which that might be a good thing.