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Budget Cuts in Pennsylvania – We Need The American Jobs Act

Todd Smeltz, an educator, discusses how budget cuts have affected his community and how the American Jobs Act can help schools across the nation.

My name is Todd Smeltz.  I am an educator, parent and taxpayer in the Upper Dauphin Area School District in Pennsylvania where my children attend school.  I have a son in the 8th grade and a daughter in 1st grade, and I teach high school chemistry.  My wife also teaches in the district, elementary learning support (grades K-2).  Due to the budget crunch last year, our district furloughed teachers and dropped positions that teachers retired from.  It saddens me to teach in these times after 22 years of experience. 

Due to budget cuts, my middle-school son went back to school with a computer program instead of a foreign language teacher for his World Languages class.  A teacher certified in physical education monitors the class while the students sit at computers trying to learn Spanish.  Our high school students will not be able to take French and will be limited to German and Spanish.  My son also doesn't have a Science class—the math teacher was furloughed and the Food and Consumer Science teacher has to cover math classes since she also has 7-9 math certification.

My first-grade daughter no longer has computer class and limited library access—the librarian was furloughed and the middle school librarian has to "cover" the elementary library as well. The district has no nurse at all for the last 45 minutes of the elementary school day. The superintendent's response is that was that we have people trained in CPR—not comforting to me as a parent, knowing that emergencies can happen at the end of the day as easily as they can any other time.

Our district also cut a high school English teacher, so our students have larger class sizes in a critical subject area. We also cut a music position, making it more difficult for students to participate at all ages.

I see quality education in our district disintegrating -- and, those that suffer the most are our children. They need our support.


America’s education system has always been one of our greatest sources of strength and global economic competitiveness, as well as the engine of incredible progress in science, technology and the arts. We cannot expect to train our children for the high-skilled jobs of today, or for the opportunities of the future, without investments in a world-class education system.  States are still reeling from the recession and their budget woes are having a devastating impact on schools and students. That is why the federal government needs to provide more emergency education funding to states and localities.

As many as 280,000 education jobs are on the chopping block in the upcoming school year due to continued state budget constraints. As Todd’s personal story shows, these cuts have a significant impact on children’s education, through the reduction of school days, increased class size, and the elimination of key classes and services. The President’s plan will support state and local efforts to retain, rehire, and hire early childhood, elementary, and secondary educators (including teachers, guidance counselors, classroom assistants, afterschool personnel, tutors, and literacy and math coaches). 

These efforts will help ensure that schools are able to keep teachers in the classroom, preserve or extend the regular school day and school year, and also support important after-school activities.  These funds would help states and localities such as Upper Dauphin School District avoid and reverse their layoffs now, requiring that funds be drawn down quickly. Under the President’s proposal, $1,155,300,000 in funds would go to Pennsylvania to support the hiring and retention up to 14,400 educator jobs. The American Jobs Act will ensure that Todd’s children can go back to their schools with all of the teachers, classes, and support they need to compete in the 21st century economy. Now is the time to invest in our teachers and our students’ knowledge in technology, computers, foreign languages, and other key skills that districts across the country are cutting.

President Obama believes that America cannot win the future if its teachers are not where they belong—at the chalkboards or the Smart Boards in our classrooms, teaching our nation’s children. That’s why he put forward a plan—the American Jobs Act—that will provide support for nearly 400,000 education jobs, enough for states to avoid harmful layoffs, rehire tens of thousands of teachers who lost their jobs over the past three years, preserve or extend the regular school day and school year, and support important after-school activities.

Teachers and the American Jobs Act Stories:

Putting Our Teachers Back to Work: Stephanie Harris Walter 

Please share your story about how the American Jobs Act will positively impact you or your community.

Todd Smeltz is a member of the National Education Association-- a supporter of the American Jobs Act.

Brad Jenkins is an Associate Director at the Office of Public Engagement.