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Debt Ceiling Deal Is Flawed, But US Default Worse

WASHINGTON - August 01, 2011 -

Members of Congress will vote soon on a debt ceiling agreement that will reduce the deficit and avoid a national default – a default that would have a devastating effect on millions of Americans, especially children, seniors and working families.  The bipartisan agreement was made Sunday night between the White House and Congressional leaders and is set to raise the federal government’s debt ceiling while cutting deficits by at least $2.1 trillion over the next ten years.

Dennis Van Roekel, president of the National Education Association, issued the following statement in response to the deal:

“For the last several weeks, everyday Americans watched a reckless game of political brinksmanship that threatened the stability of the United States economy.  What finally emerged is a flawed, yet bi-partisan agreement that will allow us to do what should never have been subject to a debate in the first place:  pay our bills.   In doing so, lawmakers have protected the senior widow barely scraping by and dependent upon her Social Security check and working parents barely able to make ends meet at minimum wage jobs and reliant upon the food stamps they desperately need to ensure their children are fed.  These are not rhetorical debates.  They are the real, life-and-death consequences if policy makers fail to come together and act in the best interests of the nation.

“Flawed as it may be, we understand that failure to raise the debt ceiling and the resulting default would have been catastrophic.   We are pleased that this agreement funds Pell Grants for two years and temporarily protects Medicaid – the sole source of healthcare for one-third of the nation’s children--Social Security, and Medicare.  That being said, we have very real concerns as the Bipartisan, Bicameral Congressional Committee takes up its work in the fall.

“We urge the lawmakers serving on this Committee not to be shortsighted. Cuts to education, Medicaid, and financial aid are irresponsible and short-sighted; they ignore the well-documented return on investments in education in the form of a more educated workforce earning higher wages and feeding that money back into the economy.

“The fact that the subject of tax fairness has been punted to a bipartisan committee, rather than addressing it now is especially hard to stomach.  It’s abundantly clear that some lawmakers are committed to maintaining the fundamental economic imbalance that puts the interests of Wall Street over Main Street.  That notion is unconscionable to our 3.2 million members and the American people. The fact that the top one percent of earners in America makes one quarter of all the income is not lost on the middle class.  The fact that some corporations made billions in profits yet paid no taxes at all last year is beyond offensive.  It’s offensive to the cafeteria workers, librarians and teachers who got pink slips as state budgets dried up and it’s offensive to the students they served who will soon be piling in to overcrowded classrooms, riding longer bus routes to school and will find narrowed curriculums when the school bell rings in a few weeks.

“What working families need most from lawmakers and business alike are stable jobs, quality, affordable healthcare, and a world class system of public education from preK to graduate school. 

“The 3.2 million members of the National Education Association will vigorously fight to ensure that the Bipartisan, Bicameral Congressional Committee and the ensuing economic debate address our concerns.  Our greatness as a nation in the long term and our recovery in the short term depend upon the same thing: honoring those who have educated, protected, and built the nation's economic strength. Those people are found on Main Street in every community in every state in this land.”

To learn how the debt ceiling crisis will affect educators and their families, visit
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The National Education Association is the nation’s largest professional employee organization, representing 3.2 million elementary and secondary teachers, higher education faculty, education support professionals, school administrators, retired educators and students preparing to become teachers.

CONTACT:  Brenda Álvarez  (202) 822-7823,