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Letter to the Senate Budget Committee on mark-up of an FY13 Budget Resolution

April 17, 2012

Dear Senator:

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 in advance of this week’s Budget Committee mark-up of an FY 2013 Congressional Budget Resolution.  Actions in Committee on these issues may be included in the NEA Legislative Report Card for the 112th Congress. 

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.  Debates around the budget and deficit reduction must include a meaningful discussion of the need for real shared sacrifice and must call on the wealthiest in our nation to help raise the revenue needed for a strong future.  The budget should not include any additional cuts to discretionary programs – which have already faced a trillion dollars in cuts under the Budget Control Act.  It should also not include cuts to core programs like Medicaid, Medicare, and Social Security, which provide essential safety nets for millions of vulnerable children and seniors. 

We cannot afford another budget proposal that chooses Wall Street over Main Street and leaves struggling middle class families to fend for themselves.  The single largest contributing factor to the deficit is the tax cuts enacted under the last administration and renewed in 2010.  These tax cuts must not be renewed any further.  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. 

In addition, we must address the increasing erosion of the corporate tax base that is seriously undermining our ability to make necessary investments in education and other critical programs.  We should be looking for ways to increase revenue responsibly and to close tax loopholes that do nothing to strengthen our economy.  For too long, corporate tax avoidance and an unfair tax structure has shortchanged our nation’s students.  For example:

  • By investing just 24 percent of the revenue that would be generated by closing corporate tax loopholes every impoverished child under age five in America could attend a high-quality pre-school. Right now, less than 20 percent of eligible children are being served.
  • By investing just 19 percent, every school in America could get, on average, half a million dollars for Title I support to help students from low-income families.
  • By investing just 28 percent, the government could boost the maximum Pell Grant award so that it would cover half the average cost of a public college.
  • By investing just 14 percent, the federal government could finally meet its unfulfilled promise to provide 40 percent of the cost of educating students with disabilities. Right now states are picking up where the federal government fall shorts of its obligation. With the revenue from corporate tax loopholes, each school district in America could save $1.5 million, freeing up local dollars for resources students need.

We have attached for your information a series of charts outlining the impact that closing corporate tax loopholes would have on funding for critical education services. 

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 call on Congress to provide at least this level of increase for education, including increases for Title I state grants, IDEA special education, School Improvement Grants, English Language Learners, and Rural Education. 

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 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. These investments are critical to ensure economic recovery and future vitality. 

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