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Letter to the House supporting the American Recovery and Reinvestment bill

January 16, 2009

Dear Representative:

On behalf of the National Education Association’s (NEA) 3.2 million members, we would like to express our support for the American Recovery and Reinvestment bill, scheduled for mark-up on January 21.  We are very pleased that the proposed package includes the investments in education, health care, and other areas necessary to jump-start the economy, create jobs, and help struggling families and communities.

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.  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 year 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 17 states have implemented or proposed cuts to public colleges and universities. 

The American Recovery and Reinvestment bill would help address these urgent needs.  We are particularly pleased that the bill would provide:
  • $41 billion to local school districts through Title I ($13 billion), IDEA ($13 billion), a new School Modernization and Repair Program ($14 billion), and the Education Technology program ($1 billion).This funding will take pressure off state budgets and will help infuse money and create jobs in communities where they are most needed.

  • $79 billion in state fiscal relief to prevent cutbacks to key services, including $39 billion to local school districts and public colleges and universities distributed through existing state and federal formulas, $15 billion to states as bonus grants as a reward for meeting key performance measures, and $25 billion to states for other high priority needs such as public safety and other critical services.

  • $15.6 billion to increase the Pell Grant by $500.

  • $6 billion for higher education modernization.

  • Critical increases in health care, nutrition assistance, and unemployment insurance, to help struggling families make ends meet.   

We believe the proposed American Recovery and Reinvestment bill offers a sound approach to addressing the urgent economic needs across the country.  We urge the Appropriations Committee to approve the legislation as quickly as possible and move it forward for floor consideration.

 

Thank you for your consideration of our views on these important matters.

Sincerely,

Diane Shust                                                                             Randall Moody

Director of Government Relations                                         Manager of Federal Advocacy