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Letter to the Senate Subcommittee on Labor-HHS-Ed on FY14 Ed Funding

July 08, 2013

Dear Senator: 

On behalf of the more than three million members of the National Education Association (NEA), we would like to share educators' priorities for education funding in advance of the FY14 Labor-HHS-Education appropriations bill scheduled for mark-up this week.  Actions in subcommittee on these issues may be included in the NEA Legislative Report Card for the 113th Congress. 

NEA believes that to ensure equity, Congress must end the devastating effects of sequestration.  The level of cuts imposed by the indiscriminate, across-the-board cuts of the sequester have already taken federal funding back to pre-2004 levels while our nation’s schools are serving 7.4 million more students – with scores of children being dropped from Head Start rolls, immediate cuts to schools served by Impact Aid, announced furloughs of educators who serve our military families, and additional harmful impacts expected as the next school year starts. 

NEA strongly urges that formula based grants be a majority priority in this bill. Formula grants provide some level of certainty to states and local school districts through formula-driven federal aid rather than a competitive system which only serves to create winners and losers, rather than providing all districts the resources they need to succeed.   

NEA applauds the Senate Appropriations Committee and the leadership of Full Committee Chairwoman Mikulski and LHHS/Education Subcommittee Chairman Harkin for eliminating the sequester by allocating $1.058 trillion for FY2014, including $164.33 billion for this subcommittee - almost $43 billion more than the House allocates for the same subcommittee. 

We hope the Labor-HHS-Education funding bill will reverse recent cuts and bring funding back to at least pre sequester levels with increases for inflation and student enrollment gains for several priority programs, with a specific emphasis on core, formula grant programs that benefit students in all communities, including: 

  • Title I - to help this proven program continue to close achievement gaps. Title I was created to correct inequitable financing at the state and local level that results in fewer resources being devoted to lower-income students. While Title I has made a significant difference in addressing gaps in educational access and opportunity, many challenges remain as far too many students’ opportunities in school continue to depend in large part on the zip code where they live.
  • IDEA - increased funding is essential to ensure all students receive the quality education needed to succeed. For too long, Congress has failed to live up to its commitment to fund 40 percent of the national average per pupil expenditure of every child in special education. With the FY13 sequester cuts the federal share has fallen to a shameful 14.9 percent. This continued and dramatic underfunding forces school districts to either raise taxes or dip into general education budgets to make up for the shortfall, thereby cutting other critical services. A significant increase will help take pressure off of state and local budgets already stretched thin and free up state and local funding for other education priorities.
  • We also support increases in important programs critical to meeting specific, targeted needs of students across the country, including School Improvement State Grants, English Language Acquisition State Grants, and Rural Education.
  • To help ensure students are prepared to learn in school we support increased funding for Head Start as well as the President's call for greater investment in early childhood education to improve school readiness.  

We urge increased funding for the Promise Neighborhoods program that support high need communities that combine effective, cradle-to-career services for children and their families. 

And, we strongly support an inflationary adjustment to the maximum Pell Grant award to assist in making college more affordable for more students. 

NEA urges continued support for the Title II Teacher Quality State Grants program. These funds reach all school districts and states and allow local districts to invest in professional development and class size reduction. With devastating cuts at all levels in recent years, class sizes have been on the rise. Parents and educators know, and research confirms, that smaller class sizes offer numerous benefits for students, who can received more individualized attention. Current law includes a 1.5 percent “set aside” within Title II for competitive grants, which, by their very nature leave behind many students and districts. We have concerns about increasing the set-aside within Title II and limiting funding flowing to students. 

The FY14 Labor-HHS-Education appropriations bill should reflect the belief that a country that makes education a priority is bound for economic success. This prioritization of education funding, particularly for the major formula grant programs, 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 urge your support for rolling back the devastating sequester and putting education funding back on track to ensure our students will be prepared to compete in today’s 21st century global economy. 

Sincerely, 

Mary Kusler
Director of Government Relations