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Letter to the Senate in Support of the Omnibus Appropriations Bill

December 15, 2010

Dear Senator:


On behalf of the 3.2 million members of the National Education Association, we urge you to VOTE YES on the omnibus appropriations bill for fiscal year 2011.  This bill, which includes important increases for core education programs serving those with the greatest needs, is much better than the continuing resolution passed by the House, which would freeze funding at current insufficient levels. 

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 omnibus bill:

  • Provides increases 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. 
  • Fills the Pell Grant funding shortfall.  Filling this shortfall is critical to ensuring that eligible students can continue to pursue their dreams of higher education.  And, it is essential to staving off future K-12 education cuts. 
  • Protects funding for important programs like the National Board for Professional Teaching Standards, necessary to ensure every student the high quality teachers necessary for success. 
  • Increases funding for core educational programs such as 21st Century Community Learning Centers and English Language Acquisition State Grants.
  • Invests in quality early childhood learning by increasing funding for the Early Learning Challenge Fund, and Head Start.  These programs are very important to ensuring that young children get the basic foundational services to ensure future academic success. 

We are disappointed that the proposed increase for Race to the Top exceeds those for Title I and IDEA — which provide 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.

Finally, we are disappointed that the omnibus continues funding for the District of Columbia private school voucher program.  Particularly in these challenging economic times, we believe these funds would be more appropriately targeted to public schools, which serve the overwhelming majority of students in the District of Columbia.

Attached for your information is a state-by-state chart showing Title I and IDEA allocations under the omnibus, compared with current funding levels.  Again, we urge you to vote yes on this important legislation.

Sincerely,

Kim Anderson         
Director of Government Relations

Mary Kusler
Manager of Federal Advocacy