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Letter to Congress Outlining NEA’s asks for Education Funding for FY 2013

March 08, 2012

Dear Representative:

On behalf of the more than three million members of the National Education Association's (NEA), we would like to share our priorities for education funding as Congress begins crafting the FY 2013 Congressional Budget Resolution.

The Budget Resolution should reflect the priorities of our nation.  It should target funding in a manner that demonstrates whether we as a nation are going to ensure everyone a fair shot, or whether we will continue to allow those who can most afford to pay their fair share to avoid doing so.  Ensuring all of our children a quality education should be a top priority in the budget.  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.  To this end, we were very pleased that President Obama made education a top priority by slating it for the largest percentage increase of any discretionary funding area in his budget proposal.   

NEA supports the President’s proposed overall increase (+2.5%) for education in his budget.  His plan demonstrates the belief that a country that makes education a priority is bound for economic success. This prioritization of education funding is critical to ensure that every student in America, regardless of where and in what circumstances he or she lives, has the tools and resources necessary to succeed. 

We also support the President’s focus on making it easier for students to afford postsecondary education, increasing the number of students who complete their degree, and investing more in job training. Of particular note is an $8 billion investment in community colleges to improve access to job training.  The President also calls for a one-year moratorium on the doubling of student loan interest rates (from 3.4 to 6.8%) scheduled for this summer and provides the necessary resources to sustain the maximum Pell Grant award of $5,635 through the 2014-15 award year. 

We have attached a set of charts outlining NEA’s specific priorities for FY 2013 education funding.  These include:  

  • An additional $650 million for Title I state grants ($15.2 billion, +4.5%).  Investing in Title I reflects the critical role of the federal government in addressing historical inequities.  Title I has a proven track record of success in closing achievement gaps.  Yet, the current funding level represents only 38% of the full authorization level. According to the most recent available data, child poverty has reached a level of 20.7 percent – a rate of more than one in five and totaling more than 15.5 million children.   More students are coming to school hungry and more students and their families are finding themselves homeless.  Many schools in distressed areas lack even the basic tools and resources to help children succeed.  Increasing Title I funding is essential for closing opportunity and achievement gaps and helping every child reach his or her full potential.
  • An additional $675 million for IDEA/special education ($12. 3 billion, +5.8%).  This funding increase would reverse a recent decline in the federal percentage of funding for special education.    It would raise it from 16.3 percent to 16.7 percent (the FY10 level) and put us back on a path toward the promised 40 percent federal share.  IDEA is essential, yet it remains badly underfunded, placing further strain on state and local budgets that already are at historic shortfalls.  For fiscal year 2012 alone, the funding gap shifted $16.7 billion in costs to states – funding that states and local districts had to make up either by cutting other essential services or raising taxes.  From 1981-2012, the funding gap cost states and local districts $303 billion. 
  • An increase of $66 million for School Improvement Grants ($600 million, +12.5%).  School Improvement Grants provide critical resources for schools with the greatest challenges.  But, more resources are needed to ensure every struggling, eligible school gets the help it needs to turnaround, which is not happening at current funding levels.  NEA is working through our Priority Schools Campaign with many of these schools to help students achieve and bring communities together to promote student success. In many of these schools, NEA is providing school-based technical assistance, offering training to community members and connecting schools with vital partnerships to tackle many of the non-school related issues that affect students’ ability to learn and achieve.
  • An increase of $43 million for English Language Learner grants ($775 million, +5.9%).  According to the National Center for Education Statistics, English Language Learners now comprise 10.5 percent of the nation’s K–12 enrollment, up from 5 percent in 1990.  Yet, Approximately 15 percent of ELLs receive no special instruction or programs designed to help them learn English and achieve in the content areas (Hopstock & Stephenson, 2003). 
  • An increase of $21 million for Rural Education ($200 million, +11.6%).  Rural communities depend on their schools to serve many functions beyond their primary mission of educating children. Rural school districts are often the largest single employer in their area and rural schools serve as the social, recreational and cultural foundation of their communities.  But many rural school districts are under funded and some lack a steady revenue stream.  

We also strongly support the President’s call for investing in jobs, including $30 billion to modernize at least 35,000 schools and $25 billion to help states and localities retain and hire teachers, education support professionals, and first responders.

Finally, we want to express our opposition to provisions in the President’s Budget Request calling for increased enforcement of the Government Pension Offset and Windfall Elimination Provision.  These unfair offsets take away Social Security benefits that hundreds of thousands of educators, police, firefighters, and other dedicated public servants have earned.  Rather than seeking to further penalize those impacted by the offsets, Congress should be looking for ways to eliminate the offsets and ensure that all public servants can receive the benefits they have earned.    

Thank you for your consideration of our views on these important issues. 

Sincerely, 

Kim Anderson 
Director, Center for Advocacy

Mary Kusler
Director of Government Relations