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Letter to the Senate Opposing the Sessions-McCaskill Amendment on Funding Caps

March 11, 2010

OPPOSE SESSIONS/MCCASKILL AMENDMENT ON FUNDING CAPS


Dear Senator:

The National Education Association, representing 3.2 million educators across the country, strongly urges you to VOTE NO on an amendment to be offered today by Senators Sessions (R-AL) and McCaskill (D-MO).  This amendment, which would impose caps on discretionary funding, would have a significant negative impact on education funding.  Votes associated with this issue may be included in the NEA Legislative Report Card for the 111th Congress. 

The Sessions/McCaskill amendment would impose caps on total discretionary funding that are equal to the aggregate spending levels in the fiscal 2010 budget resolution.  It locks in funding levels for defense and nondefense appropriations for four years (fiscal years 2011 through 2014), without any serious debate about whether the levels proposed are adequate.  In so doing, it would essentially tie the Budget Committee’s hands in setting allocations over the next several years. 

The amendment would limit emergency exemptions to no more than $10 billion to $11 billion each year, regardless of the need for funding to deal with major emergencies such as Hurricane Katrina, and would require 60 votes in the Senate even to exempt these levels.  It would also require 67 votes in the Senate to provide any exemption in excess of the amount allowed for emergencies.  Thus, less than one-third of the members of the Senate could block legislation needed as a result of a major natural disaster in a part of the country.

The Sessions/McCaskill amendment would undermine efforts to make strategic investments in education that will help stimulate economic recovery.   Investing in programs that help students succeed in school and prepare for the workforce results in higher levels of earnings for individuals and higher tax revenues for federal, state, and local governments.  Studies show that the economic benefits of education investments will more than recoup the cost of those investments. 

The Sessions/McCaskill amendment fails to provide any flexibility to account for changes in future appropriations that will be needed if certain of the President’s budget assumptions and proposals are not enacted, such as the proposal to make Pell Grants mandatory so that no further discretionary appropriations are required for that program.

Again, we urge your opposition to this amendment.

Sincerely,

Kim Anderson 
Director of Government Relations