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Letter to Senate Budget Committee

March 01, 2011

Dear Senator:


On behalf of the 3.2 million members of the National Education Association (NEA), we would like to offer our views on the FY 2012 budget, in advance of Secretary Duncan’s testimony this week before the Budget Committee.

We are very pleased that the President’s FY 2012 budget request would increase investments in K-12 education.  In tough economic times, it is reassuring that President Obama continues to make education a national priority by calling for important investments in quality public education to keep America moving forward.  A country that focuses on building the strongest possible education system is bound for economic success.

Investing in education makes both good fiscal sense and good public policy.  Funding targeted to improving 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 addition to widespread productivity increases, the higher earnings of educated workers generate higher tax payments at the local, state, and federal levels.  Consistent productive employment reduces dependence on public income-transfer programs and all workers, regardless of education level, earn more when there are more college graduates in the labor force.  (Education Pays, The College Board, 2007). 

We would, however, like to raise several areas of concern:

  • The President’s budget proposals includes an increase for Title I, however, the increase is not targeted to those students and schools with the greatest needs.   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 it even more critical to target Title I funding via formula grants to the schools with the greatest needs.  Without these resources, far too many children will not have the supports they need to succeed.
     
  • We remain very troubled by the Administration’s continued over-emphasis on competitive grants at the expense of formula grants.  In fact, virtually all of the Administration’s proposed funding increases are funneled into competitive grant programs.  While federal formula grant programs are always important, they have never been more so than in today’s difficult economic climate. 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 are simply unable to compete, as they do not have the staff to write grant proposals.
  • Federal funding for IDEA special education remains far below the federal government’s promised share.  Proposed increases serve only to maintain the current federal share at around 17 percent of the cost of educating students with disabilities, a far cry from the promised 40 percent  We need increases that will put us on a path toward meeting the federal government’s commitment.  Failure to do so will only increase burdens on state and local governments and force cuts to other programs or tax increases. 

We look forward to working with the Congress to ensure the investments necessary to allow every student to succeed, and to ensure that funding for core programs like Title I and IDEA special education continue to be targeted to those students and schools with the greatest challenges. 

We thank you for your consideration of our views on these critical issues. 

Sincerely,

Kim Anderson         
Director of Government Relations

Mary Kusler
Manager of Federal Advocacy