WASHINGTON — President 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 obtained by the Associated Press 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.
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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.
Job estimates have become political chips in the debate on whether the stimulus was worth its hefty price tag, particularly since many of the jobs created are temporary contract positions. Since the president signed the bill in February, millions of jobs have been lost and unemployment has climbed higher than White House aides predicted.
The Obama administration, bolstered by some economists and anecdotal evidence, has said things would have been far worse without the stimulus. The White House says more than 1 million jobs have been saved or created so far, a figure that is so murky it can never be verified. That's because the White House estimate is based on economic models that try to calculate the effect of tax cuts and the ripple effect of government spending.