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Letter to Senate on Fiscal Cliff Deal

December 31, 2012

Dear Senator:

On behalf of the more than three million members of the National Education Association (NEA), we urge you to VOTE YES on the fiscal cliff deal.  NEA believes it is long past time to put people ahead of politics.  Congress must step up and do the right thing to help middle class families before it is too late.  Votes associated with these issues may be included in the NEA Legislative Report Card for the 112th Congress.

We are very pleased that the proposal on the floor would generate significant revenue by asking the wealthiest individuals to pay their fair share.  For too long, the burden of deficit reduction has fallen on those least able to make sacrifices.  This deal begins to address the need for a more balanced approach by allowing tax cuts to expire for the highest earners.  At the same time, it extends tax cuts for millions of families who cannot afford to take another hit.  Extending these tax cuts will ensure that families have more money to spend on things like clothes, cars, furniture, and food.  In turn, this spending will generate greater profits for businesses and will increase consumer demand, leading businesses to invest and hire more workers.

We also support the extension of unemployment benefits.  The cost of living continues to rise, while far too many workers, including educators, still find themselves unemployed.  Protecting unemployment insurance is critical to ensuring family stability and, consequently, the well being of thousands of children in our public schools.

We are also very glad the deal includes extensions of critical tax credits for low-income and middle class families, including the child care tax credit, earned income tax credit, and the American Opportunity Tax Credit, which will continue to allow lower-income students to pursue their dream of higher education.  We also strongly support the extension of the educator tax deduction — a provision that recognizes the great sacrifices made by educators who reach into their own pockets daily to ensure their students have the materials, resources, food, and other basics necessary to learn.  Finally, we are glad that the deal would extend the Qualified Zone Academy Zone (QZAB) tax credit to help modernize America’s schools. 

We are very disappointed that the proposal delays the impending sequestration cuts, rather than eliminating them completely.  We strongly urge Congress to reassess this issue in early 2013.  The deep, arbitrary cuts to discretionary programs would be devastating to the programs and services that ordinary Americans depend on, including education, transportation, public safety, medical research, and environmental protection.  Discretionary programs provide the long-term investments that spur economic growth, yet, they have borne the entire brunt of deficit reduction.  In fact, funding for discretionary programs, including services like education, benefits for veterans, and transportation already took a $1.5 trillion hit in last year’s Budget Control Act and recent funding bills.

These cuts, even if delayed, will mean fewer educators, students crammed into already overcrowded classrooms, shorter school weeks, 4-year-olds cheated out of early childhood education, and dreams dashed for aspiring college students.  The impact will be harshest on the students who are in most need of help and can least afford to take more hits, including students in high poverty communities and students with disabilities.

It is time for Congress to put politics aside and do what is right for our nation.  We urge you to put America’s families first by voting YES on this proposal. 

Sincerely,

Mary Kusler
Director of Government Relations