Thursday, November 27th, 2014
Half-True
Scott
Under President Barack Obama’s jobs bill, states would no longer have to lay off teachers, firefighters and police officers.

David Scott on Friday, September 9th, 2011 in a WABE-FM (90.1) radio interview

U.S. Rep. Scott says jobs bill will save jobs of teachers, police, firefighters

Even before President Barack Obama officially submitted his jobs bill to Congress, U.S. Rep. David Scott took to the airwaves to sing its praises.

Obama’s $447 billion bid to push the economy out of the doldrums is just the thing for the middle class and poor, Scott said Sept. 9 in an interview for local National Public Radio affiliate WABE-FM (90.1). It would help the employed, the unemployed and small business to boot.

The bill would even spare the nation’s most beloved public servants from joblessness, Scott said.

"This is targeted so that no longer will states have to lay off teachers, and it’s specified in its language," Scott said. "Teachers, firefighters, police officers -- people that we need."  

Government would "no longer" have to lay off teachers, cops and firefighters? This sounded all too touchy-feely for the hardened skeptics of PolitiFact Georgia. Would the legislation create a U.S. Bureau of Rainbows and Unicorns, too?

We called Scott’s office for more information.

Michael Andel, his chief of staff, referred us to the language of the American Jobs Act of 2011, which was sent to Congress on Monday.

Sure enough, Title II, Subtitle B provides $30 billion for what it calls "teacher stabilization." As the bill says, its purpose is "to provide funds to States to prevent teacher layoffs and support the creation of additional jobs in public early childhood, elementary, and secondary education in the 2011-2012 and 2012-2013 school years."

Title II, Subtitle C provides $5 billion in "First Responder Stabilization," which aims to save jobs for police officers and firefighters.    

This is how the bill would work, if it passes as written:

A state would receive money for teachers based on its population, the bill states. It may keep up to 2 percent of the cash for administrative costs and up to 10 percent for state-funded early learning programs. The rest would go to local districts, which would be required to use it for compensation, benefits and support services needed to keep employees or hire new ones.

The legislation bars districts from using the funds for other administrative purposes. States may not use the money to boost rainy-day funds or reduce debt, and they have to agree to keep their education spending at earlier levels.

Police departments would get their money directly from the U.S. attorney general. Fire departments would get theirs from the U.S. Department of Homeland Security. These offices may use $10 million for administrative costs.  

The White House estimates that the bill, as written, would bring Georgians $956.7 million for up to 12,800 teachers, firefighters and police officers.

But does that mean that government will "no longer" have to lay off these public servants?

On this point, Scott oversold his claim. First of all, the bill funds teachers only for the next two years.

Second, it’s not clear to us that the money would be enough to prevent every teacher or officer from being pink-slipped.

Consider teachers. The White House estimates its bill could save or create about 390,000 education jobs across the nation over the two years, according PolitiFact Georgia’s calculations. Each of these jobs lasts one year.

It’s not clear whether this will save all the education jobs currently at risk. The White House estimates that 280,000 education jobs are at risk for fiscal year 2012. The American Association of School Administrators estimates that 227,000 school district jobs could be cut in the 2011-2012 school year.

We were unable to find estimates for education jobs at risk over the two years in which Obama’s bill is slated to create jobs, so whether they all could be saved is up in the air.

(Scott said that "states" won’t have to lay off teachers or first responders. These are typically local jobs, but we won’t penalize Scott for this misstep. State funds can help prop up local jobs, and the jobs plan passes money through the states.)   

Of course, the bill’s chances are far from assured. Even if it does pass, these provisions could be amended out of it. And state governors could decide to reject the cash.

In sum, Scott’s claim has strengths and weaknesses.  

The jobs legislation does set aside $35 billion for teachers, firefighters and police officers. And it does specify that the bulk of the money go to jobs, rather than administrative costs. This means that even though Scott overstated his claim, the bill is "targeted," as he said, to keep these government employees from being laid off.

But the burden of proof is on Scott, and while the money could prevent many layoffs, there’s no hard evidence that governments would "no longer" have to let go of employees. His claim has accurate elements, but it’s overstated and could use more context.

We therefore rate his claim Half True.