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Letter to the Senate Budget Committee on the FY2012 Budget

May 12, 2011

Dear Senator:


On behalf of the National Education Association’s (NEA) 3.2 million members, we would like to offer our views on the fiscal year 2012 budget in advance of the Budget Committee mark-up.  We strongly urge the Committee to provide for needed investments in education at least at the overall levels proposed by President Obama to ensure a strong economy and great public schools for every student. 

Educators understand that Congress must work to ensure America’s long-term economic prosperity.  And, we recognize that we must address the nation’s serious fiscal challenges.  The Budget Resolution should set the stage for economic growth and job creation, while protecting those in our nation with the greatest needs.  It should not cater to those least in need of attention and support while placing the burden of our fiscal challenges on children, working families, and the elderly. 

NEA members know the best comprehensive, pro-growth economic strategy is to invest in our students and middle class.  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. 

We also know that scarce resources are much better spent on investing in education than on tax cuts for the wealthiest.  The single largest contributing factor to the deficit is the tax cuts enacted under the last administration and renewed in 2010.  It cost our nation $700 billion to extend the tax cuts for single filers earning over $200,000 a year and joint filers earning over $250,000.  CBO numbers show that by the end of this decade well over half of the deficit will have resulted from these tax cuts, and this share will continue to grow after that.  Attached for your information are several charts comparing the cost of tax cuts for the wealthiest ($1 trillion over ten years) with that of providing Title I ($476 billion to fully fund Part A), special education ($306 billion to meet the federal governments promised level), and Pell Grants ($544 million to increase the maximum award by $400 a year) to those in need. 

We encourage the Budget Committee to:

  • Put together a budget that provides, at a minimum, the overall education investments proposed by the President.  While we may have different perspectives about how specific programs are funded, we remain solidly in agreement with the President that the path forward for the country requires that education not be short-changed.  The President’s plan is a comprehensive, pro-growth economic investment strategy that lays a strong foundation for private sector growth.  It values education and respects America’s middle class rather than catering to the wealthy, corporations, and CEOs.  The President’s plan continues the work of rebuilding our economy and creates jobs.  It puts America’s children and workers ahead of corporate bottom lines. 
  • Protect core programs such as Medicaid and Medicare that serve our most vulnerable populations.  In fact, of the 68 million people covered by Medicaid in 2010, half are children under the age of 19, whose families depend on Medicaid for health care coverage.  One-third of all children in this country are served by Medicaid.  Children who lack access to health care services are less likely to come to school healthy and ready to learn and to succeed academically.
  • Reject proposed cuts to Social Security.  Social Security did not cause our economic problems.  It has not contributed one dime to the federal deficit and actually has a surplus of $2.6 trillion today.  Social Security is the cornerstone of economic security for nearly 54 million Americans.  It belongs to the people who have worked hard all their lives, contributed to the program, and relied on the promise that they and their family will be able to collect benefits when they retire, experience a severe disability, or die.  Even though the benefits are modest – averaging $14,000 a year – they represent more than half the income for six out of ten recipients.  Cuts to Social Security would fall disproportionately on low-income individuals, particularly women and people of color, many of whom depend on Social Security and Medicare just to make ends meet. 

A federal budget should reflect the priorities of Americans who work hard and play by the rules, not millionaires and corporate special interests.  Americans on Main Street are tired of seeing headlines about major corporations that don’t pay a dime in taxes even as they rake in record profits.  Yet America’s workers, the very people who helped generate those profits, are struggling as never before.  NEA calls on the Senate to craft a budget that puts the interests of working people, families, and students ahead of politics.

Sincerely,

Kim Anderson        
Director of Government Relations

Mary Kusler
Manager of Federal Advocacy