Letter to the Full Senate in Support of an Omnibus Appropriations Bill
December 07, 2010
On behalf of the 3.2 million members of the National Education Association, we urge you to support an omnibus appropriations bill that provides some increases for critical education programs.
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.
The FY11 Labor-HHS-Education Appropriations bill reported by the Appropriations Committee provides increased funding for important programs such as Title I (including School Improvement Grants), IDEA, 21st Century Community Learning Centers, grants for English Language Learners, Impact Aid, and early education investments such as Early Learning Challenge Grants and Head Start. It also includes investments in national activities like the National Board for Professional Teaching Standards. The omnibus is reported to provide an increase of $290 million each for Title I and IDEA.
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. According to First Focus, from 2008 to 2009, the number of America’s children that live in poverty grew by close to 2 million. In 2009, child poverty reached a level of 20.7 percent — a rate of more than one in five and totaling more than 15.5 million children. This makes full funding of Title I even more important, to ensure that all children have the supports they need to succeed.
We urge Congress to ensure that increases for competitive grant program such as Race to the Top don’t exceed those for basic support to our most vulnerable student populations. Title I and IDEA have never been fully funded. School budgets are being slashed at the state and local level and ARRA funds will soon terminate. The federal commitment to our most at-risk students has never been more important.
We also strongly urge you to support paying off the Pell Grant funding shortfall. The omnibus bill is reported to provide the $5.7 billion needed to fill the gap. This is an important investment that will stave off future K-12 education cuts and help ensure access to college for the lowest income students.
Thank you for your consideration of our views on these important issues.
Director of Government Relations
Manager of Federal Advocacy