By Don Carrington
RALEIGH — President Barack Obama stood before thousands of screaming supporters at North Carolina State University Sept. 14, urging Congress to pass the American Jobs Act, his $450 billion plan to create jobs and stimulate the economy.
“Pass this jobs bill, and there will be funding to save the jobs of up to 13,000 North Carolina teachers, cops, and firefighters,” he said. But he didn’t say that his bill would fund the jobs only for one year. Nor did he say how the jobs would be paid for after that — or whether state and local governments would have to lay off other public employees to maintain the jobs of those hired under the bill.
A White House press release describing the benefits to North Carolina was more specific. “These funds would help states and localities avoid and reverse layoffs now, and will provide $900,300,000 in funds to North Carolina to support 13,400 educator and first responder jobs.”
As in the president’s comments, the White House press release does not specify how long the jobs would be funded. Dividing $900,300,000 by 13,400 yields $67,186.57 to cover salary, benefits, and any other costs associated with providing each job in North Carolina. Since the average annual cost of teacher pay and benefits in the state is $56,000, funding in Obama’s jobs bill would cover a little more than one year of compensation.
Sections 204-209 of the bill include provisions requiring states to “meet the requirements” of the law for an additional two years. A White House spokeswoman told Carolina Journal that the bill includes no unfunded mandates. But unless North Carolina picks up the funding for these positions after the first year, it’s unclear how the teachers and first responders supported by it would be paid.
Moreover, the traditional school year began before Obama made his speech at N.C. State. Local school districts have hired teachers and classes are under way. Even if the bill became law quickly, it’s unclear how North Carolina government agencies could accept the federal money and achieve the president’s job goals during the current fiscal year.
North Carolina Department of Public Instruction Chief Financial Officer Philip Price told CJ that the average cost of teacher pay and benefits in North Carolina was $56,000 per year. He said his staff is just beginning to analyze the components of the bill that applied to public schools.