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Letter to the Full House in Support of the Economic Recovery Bill

January 27, 2009

Dear Representative:


On behalf of the National Education Association’s (NEA) 3.2 million members, we urge you to VOTE YES on the American Recovery and Reinvestment bill.  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.  Votes associated with these issues may be included in the NEA Legislative Report Card for the 111th Congress. 

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.  We have attached to this letter just a few of the reports from NEA leaders in selected states regarding the devastating impact of the budget crisis on education and other services.

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), 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.
  • Financing for public school construction, renovation and repair programs, which will help meet the over $250 billion 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.
  • $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.   

The proposed American Recovery and Reinvestment bill offers a sound approach to addressing the urgent economic needs across the country.  We urge the House to approve the legislation as quickly as possible.

Sincerely,

Dennis Van Roekel
President