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Letter to the Honorable Nancy Pelosi on the economic stimulus package

January 12, 2009

The Honorable Nancy Pelosi

Speaker, U.S. House of Representatives

Washington, DC 20515

Dear Speaker Pelosi:

As Congress considers plans for a comprehensive economic recovery package, the National Education Association (NEA) would like to offer our perspective as the representative of 3.2 million educators across the nation, and a proposal for efficiently moving desperately needed resources to communities.

As educators, our members are witnessing the impacts of this crisis firsthand.  For them, it is very personal as they see children coming to school hungry, parents of their students losing their jobs, and families in their communities struggling to survive.  Every day, our members must comfort their students who are feeling the pain of this recession and at the same time face their own fears about the future.

As states implement budget cuts, public schools and the children and communities they serve are suffering.  For example, according to the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities:

  • Massachusetts enacted cuts to Head Start, universal pre-kindergarten programs, and early intervention services to help special needs children develop appropriately and be ready for school.  Funding for K-12 education has also been reduced, including spending for mentoring, teacher training, reimbursements for special education residential schools, services for disabled students, and programs for gifted and talented students.
  • Maryland cut funding for a school breakfast pilot program, health clinics, gifted and talented summer centers, and math and science initiatives.
  • Nevada has cut K-12 education funding, including delaying an all-day kindergarten expansion, cutting per pupil expenditures in a pilot program by $400, eliminating funds for gifted and talented programs, eliminating funds for a magnet program for students who are deaf or hard of hearing, and making across-the-board cuts.  Additionally, young children with developmental delays will lose more than 15,000 hours of needed services.
  • California’s budget reduces basic K-12 education aid to local school districts.  It also cuts a variety of other programs, such as adult literacy instruction.
  • Rhode Island has frozen state aid for K-12 education and reduced the number of children who can be served by Head Start and similar services.
  • State education funding has also been cut in Alabama, Connecticut, Delaware, Kentucky, Ohio, Oregon, Utah, and Virginia.  Kansas has been delaying payments to school districts.
  • In the recently released New York budget for fiscal year 2010, the governor proposes nearly $2 billion in cuts in education funding.  In addition, a number of specific programs are eliminated, including supplemental math/science programs and new-teacher mentoring programs.  

NEA would like to offer a proposal that we believe is an effective approach for infusing immediate resources into struggling communities -- direct federal assistance through state education funding formulas.  Unlike investments in other industries, education funding reaches every community in the nation.  Therefore, the impact of additional funding would be felt in every city, small town, and rural area.  Because state formulas are designed to provide assistance to those areas most in need, additional funding would help save jobs in the very communities they are needed the most.

Direct federal relief for state education funding formulas not only helps education, but takes pressure off of state budgets, thereby preventing cuts in other areas.  In addition, education funding has a ripple effect throughout the community.  People whose jobs are saved can continue to spend in the community, supporting the local economy.

Because state funding formulas already exist, the money could be distributed quickly without having to create any new mechanisms. This funding would flow to states without federal mandates; funds would be distributed according to existing state formulas and with considerable local control of spendingexist, the money could be distributed quickly without having to create any new mechanisms.  This funding would flow to states without federal mandates; funds would be distributed according to existing state formulas and with considerable local control of spending. 

We have attached a one-pager explaining our proposal.  In addition, we are currently in the process of posting on our website state-by-state analyses demonstrating the impact of direct federal assistance through state education formulas, including the number of jobs that would be preserved/created in education and other sectors. 

We thank you for your consideration of our views on this very important issue. 

 

Sincerely,

Dennis Van Roekel

President