Letter to the House of Representatives Supporting the Emergency Economic Stabilization Act
October 2, 2008
On behalf of the National Education Association's (NEA) 3.2 million members, we urge you to support the Senate-passed version of H.R.1424, the Emergency Economic Stabilization Act, because it addresses issues critically important to children and public education. As part of legislation addressing the nation's fiscal crisis, this bill would extend the Secure Rural Schools and Community Self-Determination Act, the tax deduction for classroom supplies educators buy with their own money, Qualified Zone Academy Bonds (QZAB) for school modernization, the Child Tax Credit, and provide mental health parity.
Specifically, we are concerned about:
- Substantial and devastating funding cuts for 4,400 rural schools in 42 states. The Secure Rural Schools and Community Self-Determination program, created in 2000 to ensure a consistent funding stream for rural schools near national forests, has already expired. Failure to reauthorize and fund the program immediately has already resulted in school closings and further curtailed essential educational services.
- Making it possible for educators to continue purchasing essential classroom supplies with their own money. Educators are spending more of their own money each year to buy pencils, glue, scissors, facial tissues, and other essential classroom supplies. Most recently, the National School Supply and Equipment Association found that in 2005-2006, educators spent an average of $826 for supplies and $926 for instructional materials, for a total of $1,752.
- Meeting the pressing need for renovation, repairs, and 21st century technology in disadvantaged communities through the QZAB program. QZABs are an efficient and cost-effective financing mechanism in urban and rural areas alike. Investors receive a federal tax credit equal to the amount of interest payable on the bonds, thereby relieving local taxpayers and municipalities of the interest burden.
- Extending the Child Tax Credit to working families who don't earn enough to qualify for the current credit. Many are young families, simultaneously struggling to make a living and care for their children.
- Providing mental health parity. One in five Americans-children as well as adults-suffers from a mental or brain-based illness, according to the U.S. Surgeon General. Access to great public schools is a basic right for every child. By the same token, every child deserves the chance for a healthy start in life, including treatment for mental as well as physical conditions that impair the ability to learn and succeed in school.
NEA members across the country will be watching congressional actions closely to be sure these critical issues are addressed. We urge Congress to act on them now.
Diane Shust, Director of Government Relations
Randall Moody, Manager of Federal Advocacy