Letter to the Senate Budget Committee on the FY2011 Budget Resolution
April 20, 2010
On behalf of the National Education Association's (NEA) 3.2 million members, we would like to express our views on the FY 2011 Congressional Budget Resolution.
The Budget Resolution should reflect the priorities of our nation, and ensuring all of our children a quality education should be a top priority. Particularly in these troubling economic times, investing in education makes both good fiscal sense and good public policy. Funding targeted to quality public schools will see the greatest return on taxpayer money and will strengthen the entire economy. In fact, research shows an inextricable link between investment in education and economic strength.
In these difficult economic times, educators across the country fear for their jobs, and worry about whether their retirement will be secure. At the same time, they continue to sacrifice their own financial security to ensure that their students have the basic classroom supplies necessary to learn. Congress must keep these dedicated educators in mind when crafting the Budget Resolution.
We believe Congress should, in its Budget Resolution, provide for at least the increase in education called for by the President. The President and Congress demonstrated their commitment to children and our nation’s future with the historic investments in education provided in the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act. The President’s budget plan demonstrates our mutual beliefs that a country that makes education a priority is bound for economic success.
Specifically, we urge Congress to provide the $3.5 billion increase requested by the President, and to include the $1 billion proposed by the President contingent on ESEA reauthorization as part of the overall FY2011 discretionary education budget – for a total increase of at least $4.5 billion.
NEA’s specific priorities are outlined on the attached chart, but include:
- An additional $1.6 billion for IDEA/special education – to bring the federal percentage of funding to 19 percent and keep us on a path toward the promised 40 percent federal share. The American Recovery and Reinvestment Act got us closer than ever to meeting the federal government’s commitment, but those funding levels are not sustained beyond 2011. IDEA is essential, yet it remains badly underfunded, placing further strain on state and local budgets that already are at historic shortfalls.
- An additional $1.85 billion for Title I state grants – to help ensure disadvantaged students the assistance they need to succeed. NEA proposes redirecting the $1.85 billion proposed for Race to the Top and Investing in Innovation. While NEA supports the overarching goals of Race to the Top, we believe the Administration should conduct a comprehensive evaluation of the first phase of Race to the Top with input from national, state and local stakeholders, and make necessary course corrections before allocating additional funding.
We also urge Congress to take a very close look at the President’s proposed trend toward more competitive grant programs. While federal formula grant programs are always important, they have never been more so than in today’s difficult economic climate. Providing some level of certainty to states and local school districts through formula-driven federal aid offers stability in an otherwise rapidly deteriorating fiscal environment, particularly for high-need urban schools and small, rural districts. A competitive system serves only to create funding winners and losers, rather than providing all districts the resources they need to succeed. Indeed, many districts would simply be unable to compete, as they do not have the staff to write grant proposals.
Finally, we want to express our opposition to provisions in the President’s Budget Request calling for increased enforcement of the Government Pension Offset and Windfall Elimination Provision. These unfair offsets take away Social Security benefits that hundreds of thousands of educators, police, firefighters, and other dedicated public servants have earned. Rather than seeking to further penalize those impacted by the offsets, Congress should be looking for ways to eliminate the offsets and ensure that all public servants can receive the benefits they have earned.
Thank you for your consideration of our views on these important issues.
Director of Government Relations