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Letter to the House about education funding for the FY09 Labor, HHS, Education Appropriations Bill

June 26, 2008

Dear Representative:


On behalf of the National Education Association's (NEA) 3.2 million members, we would like to share our views on education funding as you mark-up the FY09 Labor, HHS, Education Appropriations bill. While we have not yet seen all of the provisions of the bill, we are encouraged by increases in several key education programs.

A strong public education system is critical to the future strength and economic well-being of our nation. In the past two years, this Congress took essential steps toward restoring education cuts and freezes enacted over the last half dozen years and providing the resources necessary to fulfill every child's right to a great public school. We greatly appreciate the leadership role of the subcommittee and committee in securing these much needed increases over the past few years.

Despite these positive steps, however, too many of our students still are not receiving the tools and help they need to succeed. Additional investments in proven programs such as Title I and IDEA special education as well as higher education programs such as Pell Grants are essential if we are to close achievement gaps and maximize the academic potential of every student. Therefore, we greatly appreciate the increases in key programs proposed in the funding bill marked up by the Subcommittee on Labor, Health and Human Services, Education and Related agencies earlier this week, including:

  • Providing a $665 million increase for Title I for low income students
  • Increasing the federal share for IDEA funding from 17.1% to 17.5%
  • Increasing the Pell Grant maximum by $169, more than doubling the President's request of a $69 increase

We also appreciate the rejection of the President's proposals to divert scarce resources to private school voucher efforts that are inappropriate and have yet to prove they help students achieve at higher levels. Further, we appreciate the rejection of numerous other education program cuts and eliminations proposed by the President.

Based on the information we have to date, we have one significant concern about funding provided in this bill. We oppose continuation of funding for the merit pay program, the Teacher Incentive Fund. We instead urge that these funds be targeted to Title II Teacher Quality State grants. This will allow all states, rather than just a few select districts, to increase investments in teacher quality.

Congress is back on the right track for education funding after several years of devastating cuts and freezes. We urge you to continue on this path and pass an education appropriations bill that provides the resources necessary to guarantee all children the quality public education to which they are entitled.

Sincerely,

Diane Shust, Director of Government Relations

Randall Moody, Manager of Federal Advocacy