Letter to the Super Committee on NEA's Priorities for any Deficit Reduction Deal
October 25, 2011
As the Joint Select Committee on Deficit Reduction (“Super Committee”) continues its work, including holding a hearing this week on discretionary spending, we would like to convey to the full Congress our views on priorities for any deficit reduction deal. We have also attached for your information our longer comments submitted to the Super Committee.
NEA represents 3.2 million dedicated members of the National Education Association who work tirelessly every day in support of our nation’s children. Educators understand that Congress must work to ensure America’s long-term economic prosperity and address the nation’s serious fiscal challenges. But, they also see first-hand every day the struggles of many of their students and their families and, therefore, know that we cannot afford to abandon the poor and the middle class while continuing to cater to the wealthiest in our nation.
The Super Committee must take a balanced approach that aims, above all, to put Americans back to work, while protecting the interests of Main Street and our most vulnerable populations, and making sure that those most able to do so pay their fair share. Any deal must include significant provisions to increase revenue and must not rely solely on additional cuts.
We hope the Committee will be able to come to a balanced agreement in order to avoid the sequestration trigger. The Congressional Budget Office has estimated a 7.8 percent across-the-board cut in FY13 if the trigger is pulled. This would result in a cut of $3.54 billion to education, including:
• A cut of $1.1 billion to Title I that would impact almost 1.5 million students
• A cut of $896 million to IDEA that would affect more than half a million students, and
• A cut of $590 million to Head Start that would harm more than 75,000 young children.
These cuts would also cause a loss of more than 70,000 jobs at a time when Congress needs to be focused on creating jobs. Attached please find a chart outlining the impact on education of the Budget Control Act's Across-the-Board Reductions (sequestration).
We urge the committee to:
• Focus on creating jobs. We strongly supported the President’s plan to keep educators working and students learning and are deeply disappointed that Congress has failed to pass both the comprehensive package as well as smaller pieces designed to create immediate jobs. Investing in public education creates American jobs and ensures that our children won’t fall through the cracks, and instead will have the resources they need to succeed in the worldwide economy. When we save jobs in our nation’s public schools, students are the winners: they receive more individual attention, more help from counselors, more after school help and more opportunities to succeed.
In addition, creating education jobs will help jump start economic recovery. Investing in public education has a greater net positive impact on economic growth than any other type of investment, including tax cuts. When we invest in public education, lower and middle incomes grow even more than upper incomes, positively impacting businesses’ bottom line because lower-income people spend their new income on consumer goods and services. In a typical state, investing two percent more in public education generates 3,900 new jobs and $92 million in new personal income. An equal tax cut generates less than half those gains — 1,500 new jobs and $41 million in new personal income.
• Invest in school modernization. We strongly support the Fix America’s Schools Today Act, which will invest $30 billion in school infrastructure. Our children deserve manageable class-sizes and modernized and energy-efficient school buildings. On average, our public schools are more than 40 years old and need an estimated $500 billion in repairs and upgrades. Construction and building repair generally create 9,000-10,000 jobs per billion dollars spent. Eliminating just half the backlog in needed repairs and improvements would, over a period of years, create more than two million much-needed jobs.
• Oppose additional discretionary funding cuts. Discretionary funding for the next decade already took a significant hit in round one of deficit reduction. We strongly oppose additional cuts that will unavoidably harm critical investments in education. America’s students have already “given” toward deficit reduction; their future should not be compromised more.
• Protect those most in need and those who rely on core safety net programs like Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid. Cuts to Medicaid would be especially harmful as one-third of all children in the U.S. 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. Slashing Medicaid funding would also place a drastic strain on struggling state budgets and further squeeze education funding.
We oppose any cuts to Social Security or Medicare benefits. These essential programs did not contribute to the nation’s deficit and should not be cut to address it.
• Ensure a balanced approach to deficit reduction that includes revenues. We strongly believe that those most able to do so must pay their fair share toward deficit reduction. Significant revenue should be generated by scaling back tax breaks for the wealthiest and tax subsidies for corporations. It should not come from taxing health care benefits, which would disproportionately hurt the middle class, especially women.
We understand the seriousness of the task before Congress and hope you can come together in support of a plan that will set our nation on the right course for a secure future. We urge you to fight for a balanced approach that protects the interests of Main Street America, puts our nation back to work, and ensure a strong, competitive nation for the 21st Century.
We thank you for your consideration of our comments on these critical issues.
Director, Center for Advocacy
Manager, Federal Advocacy