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Letter to the Senate Appropriations Committee Supporting the Economic Recovery Package

January 26, 2009

Dear Senator:


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 plan, scheduled for mark-up this week.  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 plan would help address these urgent needs.  We are particularly pleased that the bill would provide:

  • School modernization grants that will help meet school facility needs in states and local communities by providing resources to build repair, renovate and modernize America’s schools.  Equally important, this funding will stimulate the creation of thousands of new jobs in the construction industry and among the many construction industry suppliers, ranging from architects and engineers to roofing contractors and other workers who design and build our nation’s schools.
  • $39 billion to local school districts and public colleges and universities distributed through existing state and federal formulas.  Such funding offers an effective, efficient way to stimulate the economy, protect and create jobs, and shore up distressed communities.
  • $25 billion to states for other high-priority needs such as public safety and other critical services, which may include education.
     
  • $13 billion for Title I to help close the achievement gap and enable disadvantaged students to reach their potential.
  • $13 billion for Special Education/IDEA: to increase the Federal share of special education services and take pressure off state budgets.
  •  An increase in the Pell Grant maximum award.  
  • Investments in early childhood programs, health care, and nutrition assistance to help struggling families.

We believe the proposed 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
Director of Government Relations

Randall Moody
Manager of Federal Advocacy