COVID-19's Impact on the Education Profession

NEA Predicts 20 Percent Decline in Education Workforce

The largest labor union in the country, the National Education Association, has estimated that the United States could lose 1.9 million education jobs unless Congress delivers additional funding for states and localities to bolster support for schools.

To arrive at its count, NEA analyzed the outcome on state revenues over three fiscal years — 2020, 2021 and 2022 — and the corresponding effect the expected decline of $765 billion would have on the ability of states to fund public education. Without additional federal emergency aid, NEA stated, state general fund revenues in support of education could fall by about $200 billion. As a result, about a fifth of the education workforce would lose jobs, after accounting for the use of state rainy day funds and funding available under the CARES Act.

The analysis was done in part to put pressure on the Republican-controlled Senate to sign on for the HEROES Act, a House-approved initiative to provide additional public relief funds in response to the impact of COVID-19. NEA leans left, spending most of its political campaign dollars to support Democratic candidates.

The HEROES (Health and Economic Recovery Omnibus Emergency Solutions) Act, which passed the Democrat-controlled U.S. House of Representatives in mid-May, would help stem some of the state revenue shortfall, the union reported. The Act also includes $915 billion in direct relief for state and local governments that could be used to pay workers deemed vital, such as educators. It also provides for $90 billion in additional funding for support of elementary, secondary and postsecondary education. However, NEA estimated, even that much would only protect 800,000 education jobs, about 673,000 in K-12 and 153,000 in higher ed.

Recently, NEA issued a letter in connection with a June 10 Senate hearing, "Going Back to School Safely." "To reopen schools safely, we will need to provide personal protective equipment (PPE) for students and educators; modify classrooms, cafeterias and school buses to permit social distancing; intensify instruction and support for students traumatized by the impact of the coronavirus on their families and communities; and more," the union stated. "Doing so will require significant investments at a time when schools are facing budget cuts that are expected to far exceed those during the Great Recession."

In its comments, NEA urged Congress to provide at least $175 billion more for the Education Stabilization Fund, $56 million in directed funding for protective equipment and $4 billion to create a special fund, administered by the E-rate program, to equip students with hot spots and computing devices.

"The American economy cannot recover if schools can't reopen, and we cannot properly reopen schools if funding is slashed and students don't have what they need to be safe, learn and succeed," said NEA President Lily Eskelsen García, in a statement. "Congress must put aside partisanship and take immediate action to save millions of jobs and ensure students don't pay the price if states are forced to make deeps cuts to education funding."

A state-by-state analysis of the impact of the HEROES Act on school funding is openly available through the NEA website.

About the Author

Dian Schaffhauser is a former senior contributing editor for 1105 Media's education publications THE Journal, Campus Technology and Spaces4Learning.