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Letter to House Budget Committee Opposing the Sequester Replacement Act and a Reconciliation Proposal

May 07, 2012

Dear Representative: 

On behalf of the more than three million members of the National Education Association (NEA), we strongly urge your opposition to the Sequester Replacement Act (HR 4966) and reconciliation bill scheduled for consideration by the House Budget Committee this week.  These two proposals make the wrong choices for our nation – opting to place the burden for the nation’s financial crisis squarely on the shoulders of the middle class and the poor, while failing to ask anything of those most able to contribute toward economic recovery.  Actions in committee on these issues may be included in the NEA Legislative Report Card for the 112th Congress.  

The Sequester Replacement Act would go far beyond the cuts agreed to on a bipartisan basis in last year’s Budget Control Act.  In FY 2013 it would cut overall FY 2013 discretionary spending by $19 billion and nondefense spending by $27 billion below the levels established on a bipartisan basis in the Budget Control Act (BCA).  For FY 2014, it would severely slash education and other nondefense spending to levels well below not only those set in the BCA, but also far deeper than would occur under the sequester.  In FY 2014, nondefense discretionary spending would be cut 19 percent below current spending – more than double the cut that would occur under sequestration. 

At the same time, the proposal makes no attempt to find a balanced approach to deficit reduction.  There is no attention paid to the need to close corporate tax loopholes and ensure that those most able to do so will pay their fair share.   This is clearly the wrong direction for our nation.   

The proposed cuts to education will hurt the neediest students, causing class sizes to rise even further, forcing elimination of more programs aimed at providing a well-rounded education, and putting more public servants in unemployment lines.  Education programs have already suffered significant harmful cuts to both K-12 and higher education. The final FY 11 Continuing Resolution cut education programs (exclusive of changes to Pell grants) by an aggregate $1.25 billion with more than three dozen education programs eliminated and another four dozen cut. The FY 12 omnibus appropriations bill cut Education Department funding by another $233 million.  Since FY 10, funding for over 50 education programs has been terminated, cutting over $1.2 billion.  

This shortsighted policy will jeopardize our students’ and our nation’s future.  Funding targeted to quality public schools will see the greatest return on taxpayer money and will strengthen the entire economy. When we invest in public education, lower and middle incomes grow even more than upper incomes, positively impacting businesses’ bottom line as 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. (Richard Sims, NEA Research, previously Director, Institute on Taxation and Economic Policy, 2011).   

The reconciliation measure includes deep cuts to programs serving our nation’s most vulnerable populations.  We are particularly troubled by provisions that would kick 280,000 low-income children off automatic enrollment in the Free School Lunch and Breakfast Program and cause these same children, and 1.5 million other people, to lose SNAP benefits that help them afford food at home.   At a time in American history when one of every five children is living in poverty, it is simply unconscionable to exacerbate the challenge so many American children and their families are facing just to survive.

NEA members know first-hand that hungry children cannot learn, and that access to an adequate and healthy diet is essential to academic success.  And, in these difficult economic times, food assistance programs are even more critical for children and families:

  • 2.7 million more children lived with an unemployed parent during a typical month in 2011, compared to 2007 (an increase of 71%), bringing the 2011 total to 6.5 million children; 
  • 3 million (47% of those living with an unemployed parent) lived, during a typical 2011 month, with a parent unemployed six months or longer;
  • 8 million more additional children relied upon SNAP for food in 2011, compared to 2007, bringing the total number of children receiving SNAP to 21 million (one in four);
  • 16 million children (more than one in five) currently live in poverty. (The Recession’s Ongoing Impact on America’s Children: Indicators of Children’s Economic Well-Being Through 2011, Julia Isaacs, Brookings Institution, December 2011.) 

We are also very troubled by proposed roll backs of health care protections, including provisions that would reduce the number of people covered by Medicaid (which serves one third of our nation’s children) and the Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP).  The proposals would result in a sharp increase in the number of uninsured Americans – 100,000 children and adults in 2013 and at least 300,000 children in 2015, according to CBO.  In addition, we oppose the elimination of funding for state insurance exchanges to help uninsured people find affordable coverage. NEA members across the country see first-hand every day the importance of access to health care for children’s success in school.  Students simply cannot learn unless they come to school healthy.  Families with access to regular medical care are more likely to keep the entire family healthy and create a better learning environment within the home. 

The Sequester Replacement Act and reconciliation proposal reflect the wrong priorities for our nation.  Not only do they ignore the bipartisan budget deal reached last summer, but they ignore the needs of millions of struggling middle class families and those who have fallen out of the middle class.  They leave the majority of Americans to fend for themselves, while pandering to a small percentage of wealthy individuals.  These proposals run completely counter to our values as a nation, by failing to take care of those most in need while sparing those at higher income levels.  They ask our children, working families, seniors, and disabled populations to make greater sacrifices than others.  We urge you to reject these ill-conceived proposals.  

Sincerely, 

Kim Anderson
Director, Center for Advocacy 

Mary Kusler
Director of Government Relations