Teachers in the United States are struggling to stay afloat after decades of budget cuts, the nation’s most significant teachers union said Monday.
“We’ve seen a steep decline in public education in the last few years,” said Bob Lettieri, president of the National Education Association.
“We’ve been looking for a long time for a solution.”
A number of states have also been grappling with the effects of sequestration, which was supposed to cut spending by nearly a third over the next two years, but has left schools with little money for teachers, counselors and other staff.
A series of recent layoffs in education have been attributed to the budget cuts.
And some schools in some states are already struggling to keep up with rising enrollment.
The American Federation of Teachers called on the federal government to step in to fund new classrooms and help with pay raises.
“It’s been an unprecedented, devastating recession that has devastated our education system,” the federation’s president, Randi Weingarten, said in a statement.
“Now we need the federal administration to act, and it’s up to Congress to act.”
The federation has called for $7 billion in new funding for schools in the states that remain in deep fiscal trouble.
But it said it’s more critical that lawmakers in Washington pass the bipartisan Education Equity Act, which includes funding for teachers’ salaries, the costs of supplies and technology, and grants for new classrooms.
Teachers have also raised concerns about the fate of the nation and education in general, especially during a presidential election year.
Last year, students in a high school in the northern New Jersey town of Bergen County staged a protest against the district’s decision to close the school.
Students and their parents marched through the streets with signs reading, “We are the future.”
The students also called for a referendum on a $10,000 annual increase in state funding for education.