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Letter to the House Appropriations Committee on the Emergency Supplemental Appropriations Bill Markup

May 26, 2010

RE:  KEEP EDUCATORS WORKING AND STUDENTS LEARNING!


Dear Representative:

On behalf of the 3.2 million members of the National Education Association — dedicated professionals from early through postsecondary education who have devoted their lives to education — we urge your support for the emergency supplemental appropriations bill scheduled for mark-up this week and, in particular, for the funding to save 300,000 education jobs.  We thank Chairman Obey for including this critical funding in the bill and we strongly oppose any amendment to strip it out.  We also thank Chairman Obey for including essential funding to close the Pell Grant shortfall, which will prevent devastating cuts to federal programs in the coming fiscal years.  Votes associated with these issues WILL be included in the NEA Legislative Report Card for the 111th Congress. 

Our nation is facing an education emergency— a catastrophe that is growing worse by the day in K-12 and postsecondary education and threatening our children’s, and our nation’s, future:

  • According to a recent report from the American Association of School Administrators, nearly 300,000 educators have received or will receive pink slips for the next school year.
  • More than 80 percent of school districts across the country have had to, or expect to, layoff educators, leading to crowded classrooms and dramatic cuts to after-school programs, arts, music, sports, and even subjects like social studies and history. 
  • In some places, the school day and school week are being shortened.  This will impact state tax revenues as some parents may leave the workforce or accept part-time employment to care for younger students on days when they are not in school. 
  • Students are being turned away from higher education institutions or prevented from taking classes they need to graduate because faculty layoffs have left schools without sufficient staff to meet student needs.  According to the 2009 Survey of the National Council of State Directors of Community Colleges, 12 states have had to cap enrollments in their flagship universities, including the five largest states (California, Texas, New York, Florida, and Illinois.), and seven have capped enrollments in public regional systems, including four of the five largest (California, Florida, Illinois, and New York).  Those states are already turning away students.  At the same time, community college enrollments have surged, with some increases as high as 50 percent, as these critical institutions struggle to serve those out of work who are trying to improve their chances of re-employment in a very difficult job market. Jobs funds are needed to hire faculty and support staff to help meet the demand.
  • Unemployment numbers continue to rise.  The latest figures show a national unemployment rate of 9.9 percent, with 6.7 million people now classified as “long-term unemployed.”  Adding 300,000 educators to the unemployment rolls will cause that figure to rise, and increase the number of people who need unemployment benefits and COBRA subsidies.

Children get only one shot at an education.  It is not their fault they are in school during an economic crisis.  Fulfilling the promise of public education requires investing in the quality staff necessary to make sure every child has the individual attention and assistance necessary to excel.  Massive layoffs will lessen the quality of education a student receives -- a result that may prove irreversible in the long-run. 

As the bill moves forward, we strongly urge inclusion of funding in the final package to save higher education, as well as K-12, jobs.  NEA represents approximately 200,000 dedicated higher education employees whose students depend on them to prepare for their futures.  According to the Education Commission of the States, an education jobs fund distributed in the same manner as monies under the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act would fund 50,000 higher education jobs.  These jobs are critical to ensuring that students can access and complete the postsecondary education essential for their future success and our nation’s economic recovery. 

According to a report expected from the Economic Policy Institute (EPI) this week, the $23 billion for the education jobs fund will be offset by over half, due to effects such as higher tax collections and reduced need for social spending.  Such factors are estimated to reduce the actual cost by about $12 billion.

We have heard from thousands of our members and have collected hundreds of stories.  The same devastating scenario is playing all over the country.  Again, we strongly urge your support for an education jobs fund as part of the emergency supplemental appropriations bill. 

Sincerely,

Kim Anderson           
Director of Government Relations