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Calif. Schools Chief Urges Obama to Support State Education

Ahead of Obama's Thursday speech, Torlakson issues letter to White House in support of saving education jobs.

The state's education chief issued a letter Monday, Sept. 6 to President Barack Obama ahead of his speech to joint members of Congress urging him to protect education jobs and invest in schools.

Tom Torlakson, state superintendent of public instruction, wrote to the president asking him to "invest in job programs benefitting teachers and school employees, providing immediate help to students."

The letter also asked for the creation of job programs promoting school construction, maintenance and modernization, which would save money and create jobs, according to Torlakson.

"I'm reaching out to the President because his address presents an opportunity to advocate for desperately needed new jobs that would help rebuild and modernize our schools to meet the educational demands of the 21st century," said Torlakson in a press release.

Tolakson's efforts drew support from Glendora school officials.

“I think what he’s trying to do is say the federal government needs to step up,” said Doug Ferrell, Glendora Unified board president. “The problem is if we don’t get something to happen, pretty soon there’s just too many cuts from too many different sides.”

Ferrell said he would like to see a more reliable source of federal funding for education.

“If they’re going to send us some funding, I would look for something that’s going to be sustained so we can count on it,” Ferrell said. “Something that we know, as we allocate money somewhere else as a result of getting special funding, that it’s going to be there next year when we need it again.”

Calif. has taken roughly an $18 billion hit in cuts to education after the nation's economic slow down began in late 2007. Thousands of education jobs across the state have been lost as districts look for ways to save funding.

Opening up a dialogue with the federal government is a key element in establishing a greater funding stream, according to Bob Cruz, Charter Oak Unified board member.

“As the secretary of education for California I think it’s exactly the kind of message we need to deliver to the federal government,” Cruz said. “I’m hoping it creates an ongoing dialogue. All our legislators back in Washington need to be part of that dialogue as well.”

In January of this year Torlakson declared a "state of financial emergency" in the state's education system, resulting in the loss of thousands of education jobs, despite a stimulus of $7.5 billion courtesy of the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act.

Robert Voors, superintendent of Glendora Unified, is hopeful that the President will heed Torlakson's concerns.

“I’m pleased to see Mr. Torlakson reaching out to the president for additional support toward education," Voors said. "Political leaders, polls and voters continually rank education as their highest priority, but too often, our leaders actions do not support their words.”

The President's jobs speech is scheduled for Sept. 8 at 7 p.m.  EST.

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