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Letter to the Senate Appropriations Committee on the Education Appropriations Bill Mark-up

July 29, 2010

Dear Senator:


On behalf of the National Education Association's (NEA) 3.2 million members, we would like to express our views on the FY 2011 Labor-HHS-Education Appropriations bill in advance of this week’s committee mark-up.  We thank Chairman Harkin and the Subcommittee for proposing increases for critical programs such as Title I and IDEA, and look forward to working with the full Committee to ensure the resources necessary to help every student succeed.   We oppose any amendments in Committee that would cut education funding.

NEA believes that, 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.

Today, students’ success in school depends in large part on the zip code where they live and the educators to whom they are assigned.  Poverty is still a serious issue in this country, and unfortunately we still have schools that lack resources, committed and effective leadership, and enough great teachers and education support professionals to reach every student.  Schools in struggling communities too often have high dropout rates, and the cycle of poverty continues. 

Core foundational programs such as Title I and IDEA are critical in providing necessary and sustained funds to schools serving disadvantaged students and special populations.  Increased federal investment in these core programs, even beyond that proposed by the Subcommittee,  is particularly urgent in this economy.  State budgets typically lag any national economic recovery by a year or longer and, as a result, budget gaps are continuing into fiscal year 2011 and beyond.  In fact, fiscal year 2011 will be marked by severe budget cuts to critical services and programs for our students. 

We urge the Committee to:

  • Reject the Administration’s overemphasis on competitive grant programs.  The Administration’s FY 2011 budget request calls for historic education increases but all of those increases were slated for competitive funding programs.  While federal formula grant programs are always important, they have never been more so than in today’s difficult economic climate. Competitive grants simply cannot ensure that children in poverty receive the essential resources for success.  In contrast, formula-driven federal aid ensures that resources get to where they are needed the most, and 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.  Indeed, many districts would simply be unable to compete, as they do not have the staff to write grant proposals. 
     
  • Increase funding for IDEA/special education to keep us on a path toward the promised 40 percent of the national average per pupil expenditure for every child in special education.  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 already at historic shortfalls.
  • Increase funding for Title I state grants to help ensure disadvantaged students the assistance they need to succeed.  Title I services are essential to closing achievement gaps.  Yet, this proven program remains underfunded and unable to serve all eligible students.  Addressing the continued inequities and opportunity gaps facing children in poverty requires increasing funding for this core program. 
  • Provide increases for other critical programs, including Title II (teacher quality state grants), after-school programs, rural education, and English Language Learner grants.
  • Oppose any amendments to cut education funding.  

Thank you for your consideration of our views on these important issues.

Sincerely,

Kim Anderson         
Director of Government Relations

Mary Kusler
Manager of Federal Advocacy