Instead of spending the money to train new teachers, we could focus on putting laid off teachers back to work and keeping them there by paying them better.
News came out today that President Obama is announcing a new plan to spend $100 million on training 100,000 new teachers over the next decade. Responding to a call from American businesses to provide more high-skilled workers, Obama’s plan will focus on training more STEM teachers — aka those teaching science, technology, engineering, and math.
Spending more money on education is a healthy priority, but is this the right tactic? The plan seems to presuppose that there is a dearth of teachers right now. Yet the opposite is true — we’ve been laying them off in droves in response to tight state and local budgets. So there is a whole pool of people that we could put back to work doing what they already want to do. The number of jobs in “local government education” — in other words, elementary school teachers — has been falling steadily since February 2008, according to the BLS. We’ve lost 217,900 of those jobs since then, and things aren’t getting much better, even with seemingly good signs in the latest jobs report. Those education jobs were down 9.6 percent since December.