In Land O' Lakes, Biden says approving Obama's jobs bill would stop teacher layoffs, and then some
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10/05/11 Janelle Irwin
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President Barack Obama is facing hurdles from Congressional Republicans in passing a new jobs bill. But yesterday at an elementary school in Land O’ Lakes, Vice President Joe Biden said passing the plan would put 35 billion dollars back into education.

Biden: “Yes?”

Student: “Do you know how often the President does nothing or pocket vetoes a bill?”

Biden: “Well, we have not pocket vetoed…wow, you’re real smart man……No, I don’t think the President has pocket vetoed any bill yet.”

Before giving his speech in the library of Oakstead Elementary, Biden met with a class of fifth graders. Most of their questions had nothing to do with politics, but he said seeing all of these kids is a reminder that America needs to do better for its children.

“300,000 teachers have lost jobs since 2008. Now that’s bad for the teachers in terms of being able to make a living, but it’s devastating for our children. 300,000 fewer teachers in the classroom.”

Biden said there has been a 1.7 million dollar growth in the private sector and that doesn’t seem fair when so many government employees are losing their jobs.

“This is an emergency. Not only does it have an impact in a macro-economic sense on the economy when you have 200,000 fewer people working getting a paycheck, when you have 10,000 fewer firefighters, when you have 18,000 fewer police officers. That all has impact on the economy of your town, of your city. It means fewer haircuts, fewer trips to the restaurant, fewer times that you take your kid to a movie, fewer times that you gas the car up, fewer times and fewer and fewer and fewer.”

The students Biden visited learn every day in a portable classroom. Oakstead Elementary was built six years ago to accommodate 700 students. Their student body has now grown to over 1,000. At 25 students, it was the largest class in the school and also in violation of Florida’s class size amendment which sets the maximum at 22. Jeff Morgenstein, supervisor of communications for Pasco County schools said it’s not as uncommon as it should be.

“Our principals are doing their best to balance the numbers across classrooms. But also we have to realize, kids don’t show up at a school in neat numbers by grade level. So, sometimes there may be a handful of numbers that are higher in some grade levels. That doesn’t permit a principal to be able to have an entire new teacher at a particular grade. So, they have to distribute the kids evenly in the best interests of the kids and what they need for their learning. And sometimes that will push those caps in the class size amendment.”

Mark Brown is a fifth grade student whose classroom is also located in a portable. Brown said he watches the news every night and enjoys learning about politics.

“I listen to this and it’s so cool because, I mean, just listening to politics and I follow the election – if I could vote, I so would but I can’t – but, I look at the elections; sometimes I think of my opinion. I can give my own opinion, I just can’t vote it. That’s how I got interested in politics; it’s just a lot of fun.” (Mark Brown, student)

Some teachers who lost their jobs were invited to Biden’s speech. Susan Steiner was laid off from River Ridge High School last year. She managed to find a job in August, but was laid off again last Friday. She supports Obama’s jobs plan because it could put people like her back into the classroom.

“What he was saying, the amount of money that would come to Pasco county that would cover the deficit plus more. So they would be able to put teachers back in the classrooms which I think is very important.”

And Morgenstein from Pasco County Schools agreed. He said funding cuts have taken many opportunities out of the classroom and it gets worse each year.

“Something like this could offer us additional funds to make up for losses we’ve experienced in the past and allow us to hire back people that we’ve lost. We’ve had to terminate over 500 positions in our school district during the past year. A lot of that is due to the changes in the economy and what that means for funding for our schools. We’ve had to cut back on some of our programs like media and tech specialists, our arts programs, music programs, physical education. We have people sharing or split between schools. We’d like to go back to where we can have that full amount of service to our students at the highest level possible.”

President Obama gave a similar speech in Texas. The events were planned in coordination with the release of a report that said the 400,000 jobs accounted for 280,000 saved jobs in the future. Both Biden and Obama are pushing for its speedy passage. For WMNF news, I’m Janelle Irwin in Land O’ Lakes.

This is an emergency. Not only does it have an impact on a macro-economic sense on the economy when you have 200,000 fewer people working, getting a paycheck. When you have 10,000 fewer firefighters, when you have 18,000 fewer police officers, that all has impact on the economy of your town, of your city. It means fewer hair cuts, fewer trips to the restaurant, fewer times that you take your kid to a movie, fewer times that you gas the automobile up, fewer times and fewer and fewer and fewer.

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