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Letter to the Senate Budget Committee on the Impact of Federal Budget Decisions on Families and Communities

February 12, 2013

Dear Senator:  

On behalf of the more than three million members of the National Education Association we wish to offer the following views in connection with tomorrow’s hearing, “The Impact of Federal Budget Decisions on Families and Communities.” 

To date, Congress has already enacted more than $1.5 trillion in cuts to discretionary programs, like education, placing the overwhelming burden of deficit reduction on the backs of the middle class, students, and those struggling to make ends meet. These built-in cuts bring Non-Defense Discretionary spending to the lowest level as a share of the economy (GDP) on record.  

We urge Congress to replace the looming across-the-board cuts with a balanced approach that requires America’s wealthiest citizens and largest corporations to pay their fair share of taxes. Nationwide, the across-the-board cuts would negatively impact the education of 7.4 million students and could cost nearly 50,000 educators their jobs, further weakening the overall economy at a time Congress should be focused on helping to create jobs. Education funding would be rolled back to pre-2004 levels even though our schools are now serving nearly 6 million more students.  

These cuts would mean more 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 would 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.  

Many of our members have shared what they are experiencing and seeing with their own students and classrooms as a result of the continued budget cuts. A few examples:

From an NEA member in Washington State: I am currently in my sixth year as an Education Support Professional in special education. It has been disappointing to hear my colleagues talk about having to purchase school supplies with their own money, or textbooks that have a great deal of wear and tear, and even classroom sizes. Educators have been asked year in and year out to do more with less. One of the buildings on our campus is nearly a century old. Education is something we can all rally around. It does not know a partisan divide. A lot of great things can be achieved if all of us can come together and take the steps necessary to make education the best it can be.

From an NEA member in Iowa: We run an alternative program that helps “at risk” students, to get them back on track to graduate. This has made dramatic improvements in our district’s graduation rates. A lot of my students are finally buying into the need for a high school diploma. Please continue to invest in our children.

From an NEA member in Ohio: Our district has failed to pass a levy in over 13 years. We have made every possible cut in services. Our second grade classes have 29 children in each — this is second grade when students are still learning to read and need individualized attention in all academic subjects! One teacher with 29 students cannot possibly meet their needs and provide the help they need to learn the skills that will serve them the rest of their lives! Further federal and state cuts will make their futures even more dismal and give teachers who genuinely care about their students’ well-being an impossible task.

Despite the havoc already wrought by ill-advised budget cuts, some are calling for even deeper cuts to the programs ordinary Americans depend on: education, Medicaid, Social Security, and Medicare. Instead, as a matter of basic fairness, Congress should ensure that the wealthiest among us and corporations pay their fair share. If you do well in America, you ought to do right by America. Many large companies pay zero federal income taxes. And our inequitable tax code allows wealthy households to disproportionately benefit from deductions and other tax benefits — the top one percent of taxpayers receives nearly 25 percent of the benefit from these provisions. 

For your information, we are including national and state tables showing the potential number of students affected, jobs that could be lost, and the impact on several key programs if the across-the-board cuts occur. 

State table:

www.nea.org/assets/docs/CBPP_Sequester_Impact_States.pdf

National table: 

www.nea.org/assets/docs/Impact_of_Sequestration_on_Federal_Education_Programs_02-05-13.pdf.  

We strongly urge Congress to invest in our children, our nation’s future, and prevent further devastating cuts to critical investments like education, by enacting a balanced approach that requires those who can afford it — wealthy citizens and large corporations — to pay a fair share.  

Sincerely, 

Mary Kusler
Director, Government Relations