WASHINGTON – President Barack Obama’s stimulus plan spared tens of thousands of teachers from losing their jobs, state officials said Monday amid a nationwide effort to calculate the effect of Washington’s $787 billion recovery package.
State officials around the U.S. worked to meet a Saturday reporting deadline as part of the most ambitious effort to calculate in real time the effect of a government spending program. From 11 jobs repaving a road in Caldwell, Texas, to one job at Utah food banks, to two forensic scientist positions in North Dakota, states were required to say exactly what became of billions in government aid.
The national data won’t be available until later this month. But based on preliminary information from a handful of states, teachers appear to have benefited most from early spending. That’s because the stimulus sent billions of dollars to help stabilize state budgets, sparing what officials said would have teacher layoffs.
In California, the stimulus was credited with saving or creating 62,000 jobs in public schools and state universities. Utah reported saving about 2,600 teaching jobs. In both states, education jobs represented about two-thirds of the total stimulus job number. Missouri reported more than 8,500 school jobs, Minnesota more than 5,900. In Michigan, where officials said 19,500 jobs have been saved or created, three out of four were in education.
“They’re going to be the biggest driver of jobs from the state side,” said Chris Whatley, who tracks stimulus programs for the Council of State Governments.
Construction companies also are expected to report strong job numbers thanks to billions of dollars in highway money, but those figures will vary because some states have spent that money faster than others. Unlike construction jobs, which require bidding and contracting, teaching jobs were relatively quick to save once billions of dollars in aid arrived from Washington.