Biden Visits York School to Campaign for Jobs Bill
By Sari Heidenreich, Contributing Writer
Vice President Joe Biden visited an elementary school in York this morning to advocate for a portion of the American Jobs Act that would support teachers, police and firefighters. He acknowledged that it’s only a temporary solution — but said it’s one that needs to be passed now.
Over the last 19 months, “we lost over 437,000 jobs at the state and local level, they tended to be mostly teachers, firefighters and law enforcement officers,” Biden said Tuesday at Goode Elementary School, which lost 24 percent of its teaching staff this year. “And although we’re growing again, we’re not growing not nearly fast enough … We need some temporary help now. Middle class taxpayers need a tax break now.”
President Barack Obama’s $447 billion American Jobs Act, which was unveiled in early September, proposed extending and expanding payroll tax cuts while encouraging governments and businesses to hire new workers. After the Senate blocked the bill last week, the Obama administration has decided to push it through in pieces.
The first piece was unveiled Monday by Sen. Bob Casey (D-PA) along with Sens. Harry Reid (D-NV) and Bob Menendez (D-NJ) and is a $35 billion package that would restore jobs to 400,000 educators, 18,000 furloughed cops and 7,000 firefighters. Biden said this piece would provide Pennsylvania with just over $1 billion to support 14,400 lost education jobs.
Republicans have blasted the plan as a “second stimulus” – representing spending and debt that the nation cannot afford.
“We owe this to our kids,” he said.
“Does anybody think we can lead the world with 300,000 fewer teachers in our classroom nationwide,” Biden said. “Do you think China’s cutting teachers?”
In support of the plan, Biden cited recent research, which shows that smaller class sizes and early childhood education increase the odds that students will graduate high school and go to college. Biden also commended the teachers in several York counties for taking pay freeze in order to keep full-day kindergarten, saying many people underestimate how much teachers care about their students.
“Voluntarily, you came along and you said, ‘Look, freeze our wages.’ … How many guys you hear on Wall Street say, ‘Cut my wage in half so we can get the economy going’?”
Before Biden’s speech in the school’s library, he stopped to speak with fourth graders and on his way out, stopped his motorcade to greet dozens of children who had paused their recess to wave.
“Thank you for letting me come to your school,” Biden told the students.
Meanwhile, about 40 people llined up along the street to catch a glimpse of the country’s second-in-command. Among them, was Monica Berry, who had met Biden long before — in 1985 when he signed her James Groves High School high school diploma and shook her hand at graduation.
A couple of individuals in the crowd held picket signs.
Peggy Roche, an unemployed area resident who said she once ran for city council, held a sign that read “SAME OLD unfulfilled promises.”
“I think we need more change,” she said playing off of Obama’s campaign slogan. “I don’t even have pennies in my pocket left.”
This week, Obama and Biden are crisscrossing the East coast to tout the first phase of their jobs plan. Biden also spoke in Philadelphia this afternoon.
“People say we’re campaigning. We’re sure in heck are campaigning. We’re campaigning to change this environment,” Biden said. “The thing we decided, after trying to negotiate all this, was [to] go over the heads of people. Go to the constituents, so they can then pick up the phone and call their representatives. If don’t agree with this, don’t call your rep … This isn’t politics. This is Politics 101 in the sense that we’re trying to get something done.”
Julia Kuipers, a learning support math teacher at nearby William Penn High School, said Biden’s speech left her inspired.
“It’s unfortunate that we had to furlough some of the younger teachers who were just starting but hopefully this will get some teachers back that are just starting, that are excited. It’s just inspiring, makes you feel good for the right reason,” she said.
According to the Congressional Budget Office, Obama’s original plan — that will now be sent through Congress as a set of individual bills — would have provide $447 billion of aid to local governments and about $100 billion for various infrastructure improvement programs. Obama’s plan proposes offsetting these costs by levying a 5.6% surtax on millionaires and limit itemized deductions.