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.
Price also said approximately 4,000 North Carolina teacher positions are being supported currently by EduJobs, a program that was part of Obama’s previous stimulus package, the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009. Price said the money for those jobs would run out in September 2012.
Across the country
Obama’s American Jobs Act specifically includes $35 billion for state and local government employees: $30 billion to hire or preserve the jobs of public school teachers, and $5 billion for police officers, firefighters, and other first responders. In the White House analysis for each state, the categories are combined. One-seventh, or 14 percent, of the money covers first responders.
A Carolina Journal analysis of the planned allotment and estimated jobs from each state yields a nationwide average cost per job of $74,757.
Obama has crisscrossed the country selling his plan. “All across the country, budget cuts are forcing superintendents to make choices they don’t want make,” he said at a speech at Lincoln High School in Denver on Sept. 27. “It’s unfair to our kids, it undermines their future, and it has to stop. Tell Congress to pass the American Jobs Act, and there will be funding to save the jobs of thousands of Colorado teachers — and cops and firefighters, too,” he said.
But in Colorado he failed to mention the specific number who would be hired, and again failed to state how long those jobs would be funded with federal tax dollars.
The White House summary for Colorado states that his plan will award $478,600,000 to provide 7,000 jobs. Simple division yields an amount of $68,371 per job.
Background information provided to CJ by the White House bases the distribution of funds to each state primarily on population. The job estimates rely on public sector labor costs obtained from each state.
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(For an Excel spreadsheet with the state-by-state breakdown, click here.)
CJ’s analysis places North Carolina 31st among the states nationally in the cost per job, with the state receiving $67,187 for each of its 13,400 jobs. In neighboring states, Virginia would receive $68,731 for 10,800 jobs, South Carolina $67,109 for 6,400 jobs, and Tennessee $63,604 for 9,400 jobs.
At the extreme ends of the rankings, South Dakota would receive the least money per job and New York the most.
South Dakota would get $77,600,000 for an estimated 1,600 jobs, or $48,500 per job. New York, by contrast, would receive $1,769,800,000 for an estimated 18,000 jobs, or $98,322 per job.
California ranks second to New York with $3,621,300,000 for an estimated 37,300 jobs, $97,086 per job.
Don Carrington is executive editor of Carolina Journal.