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Letter to the Senate urging support for the Reid and Byrd Economic Recovery Act of 2008

November 18, 2008

Dear Senator:

On behalf of the National Education Association's (NEA) 3.2 million members, we strongly urge you to VOTE YES on the Reid and Byrd Economic Recovery Act of 2008.

As educators, NEA members are witnessing the impacts of the economic crisis firsthand. Schools are seeing record numbers of students who are homeless or poor enough to qualify for free school meals, and record numbers of students needing donated backpacks and school supplies, because their families cannot afford to buy them. Rising fuel costs are forcing school districts to take drastic measures, including trimming or eliminating bus service, cutting all field trips, and shortening the school week. Some states have already been forced to layoff school staff.

According to the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities, at least 41 states faced or are facing shortfalls in their budgets for this and/or next year. Over half the states had already cut spending, used reserves, or raised revenues in order to adopt a balanced budget for the current fiscal year. Now, their budgets have fallen out of balance again. New gaps have opened up in the budgets of at least 31 states plus the District of Columbia just four months after they struggled to close the largest budget shortfalls seen since the recession of 2001. And these problems are expected to continue into next year. At least 16 states are cutting or proposing to cut K-12 and early education; several of them are also reducing access to child care and early education, and at least 21 states have implemented or proposed cuts to public colleges and universities.

The Reid and Byrd Economic Recovery Act would help address these urgent needs, including by providing:

  • $37.8 billion to reduce the States' share of Medicaid costs by increasing the Federal share by eight percent. Such an increase is a proven, effective way to provide relief to states and protect the health care of millions of Americans.
  • Job creation through investments in infrastructure, including school construction. The package includes $2.5 billion for school construction, an amount that would create tens of thousands of jobs.
  • An extension of unemployment assistance to those who have exhausted their benefits.
  • Increases in food stamp benefits and other nutrition assistance for families struggling to survive in the face of rapidly rising food prices.
  • Funds for job training, including $600 million for youth training and dislocated workers, $200 million for the Community Services Block Grant, and $36 million for homeless education. These funds would provide 160,000 dislocated workers and youth with education, training, counseling, and job search assistance.

Again, we strongly urge your support for this package.

Sincerely,

Diane Shust, Director of Government Relations

Randall Moody, Manager of Federal Advocacy