President Barack Obama recently signed a $26 million measure into law to help eliminate teacher layoffs. Republican leaders have criticized the bill as a “union giveaway” that will stifle prospects for a long-term economic recovery. Democrats, however, claim the bill is necessary to avoid a new recession.

The House gave its final approval to the bill, which had already passed the Senate by a 61-39 vote.
The measure, which was passed along party lines by a margin of 247-161, is designed to save the jobs of 160,000 teachers across the United States. According to the Democrats, it will also save and create positions of firefighters, police officers, and nurses.

The bill includes $10 billion for teacher positions and $16 billion to help cover state Medicaid payments. Specifically for teachers, the $10 billion will be given to school districts to re-hire laid-off teachers or to ensure that more teachers will not be let go before the new school year begins.

After the president’s signing, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi stressed that the bill was not simply about stabilizing state budgets but also about “educating our children” and “innovation in our nation.”

President Obama emphasized the importance of teachers and the need to keep them working on behalf of students across the nation. “We can’t stand by and do nothing while pink slips are given to the men and women who educate our children,” the chief executive said.

Various Republican senators were not convinced of the bill’s effectiveness or credibility.

“American people don’t want more stimulus spending,” contended House Minority Leader John Boehner (R-OH). Rep. Ginny Brown-Waite (R-FL) characterized the bill as a “transparent handout to the teachers’ union.” Further, the Florida senator accused the measure of being financed partly through “sham accounting gimmicks.”

In Los Angeles, however, there were administrators and teachers who applauded the new bill. “It is about time that California teachers are taken from the ‘back lot’ of consideration for the wonderful job of teaching our children,” said Rozier Middle School science instructor Jacqueline Davis. City of Angels School counselor and teacher Jennifer J. George emphasized the importance of classroom teachers should not be underestimated. “With all the influence of new technologies (computers, Internet, etc.) and all the truly supportive and helpful motivation, information, and resources they supply,” the educator interjected, “nothing, but nothing, takes the place of live teachers in the classroom. The teacher is still a necessary element in the learning process of all students.”

President Obama and Democrats declared that there was a need to act before children return to classrooms without teachers who were laid off because of budget crises in states that have been devastated by the recession.