Letter to the House of Representatives urging Congress to stay in session to pass an economic stimulus package
September 23, 2008
The National Education Association (NEA), representing 3.2 million educators across the country, urges Congress to stay in session until passing an economic stimulus package that helps working families. Such a package is critical to the well-being of millions of families struggling to make ends meet.
As educators, NEA members are witnessing the impacts of the economic crisis firsthand:
- With the frightening rise in mortgage foreclosures, schools are seeing record numbers of students who are homeless or poor enough to qualify for free school meals.
- Many districts are being forced to raise prices for school meals due to escalating food costs. Schools report a steady stream of anxious parents, often in tears, pleading for free meals for their children because they do not have 70 cents a day for reduced price meals.
- Schools also report 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. For example, Detroit has laid off 700 teachers; Los Angeles has laid off 500 administrators; and Miami-Dade County has laid off hundreds of school psychologists, maintenance workers, and custodians.
As many as 27 states are predicting deficits for FY09 of at least $25 billion. A growing number of states have made or are considering harmful cuts in health care, education, and other vital services. Congress must act now before states are forced to make further devastating cuts.
While Congress is focused on bailing out Wall Street, Main Street communities are in dire need. We urge Congress to pass a stimulus package that includes:
- A temporary increase in the federal Medicaid match. 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 Economic Policy Institute (EPI) has pointed to more than $100 billion in needed repairs to U.S. public schools - well-defined projects that can be quickly implemented. EPI estimates that $20 billion in such infrastructure repairs would create 280,000 jobs.
- Increases in food stamp benefits and other nutrition assistance for families struggling to survive in the face of rapidly rising food prices.
- An extension of Unemployment assistance to those who have exhausted their benefits.
Please do not leave town without addressing these urgent needs.
Dennis Van Roekel