Saving jobs in education the highest priority in Obama’s stimulus

Daylife/Getty Images used by permission

The best symbol of the $787 billion federal stimulus program turns out not to be a construction worker in a hard hat, but rather a classroom teacher saved from a layoff.

That’s reason enough for the Republican Party to throw a hissy-fit. Rating education a higher priority than infrastructure? There’s nothing to be skimmed off for lobbyists or military contractors.

On Friday, the Obama administration released the most detailed information yet on the jobs created by the stimulus. Of the 640,239 jobs recipients claimed to have created or saved so far, officials said, more than half — 325,000 — were in education. Most were teachers’ jobs that states said were saved when stimulus money averted a need for layoffs…

Hard hats could surpass teachers next year, as more construction projects get under way. In Florida, for instance, one of the biggest infrastructure projects is its plan to build the Indian Street Bridge in Martin County. But with a big, complex project like that, it takes a while before construction can start. That project, which will cost more than $72 million, claims to have saved or created just one job so far…

Officials did not count jobs that were indirectly created by the $84 billion pumped into the economy through tax cuts so far, or from the billions of dollars’ worth of unemployment benefits and aid to states for Medicaid. If those were included, the administration estimated, the tally of jobs saved or created would rise to more than 1 million…

The jobs reports came a day after new figures showed the economy grew by 3.5 percent during the last quarter, ending the longest economic contraction since World War II. But while many economists credited the stimulus with spurring some of that growth, many in Washington have raised doubts about the stimulus program’s effectiveness at creating jobs.

The TIMES sticks in obligatory caviling from Republicans right about here.

Sensitive to such criticisms, the Obama administration invited a marquee Republican to the White House to praise the stimulus: Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger of California, whose state has faced perhaps the most severe budget crisis in the nation.

“Some of our colleagues are saying that it hasn’t done much, or was a waste of money,” Mr. Schwarzenegger said, sharing the stage with Mr. Biden. “Well, I would dispute that.”

He said the stimulus had created or saved more than 100,000 jobs in California, the most in the nation, more than half of which — 62,000 — were the jobs of teachers, professors and school administrators. Mr. Schwarzenegger noted that some people have questioned whether those teachers would actually have been laid off without the stimulus. “No, those teachers would have been gone, if it wouldn’t have been for the federal stimulus money,” he said.

Here in New Mexico, Republicans and Chickenshit Blue Dog Democrats wanted to cut the education budget 10% across the board. With a lot of pushing and shoving by Governor Bill – we ended up saving all but about 3½%.

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