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Letter to the Senate Appropriations Committee on FY14 Labor-HHS-Education Appropriations Bill

July 10, 2013

Dear Senator: 

On behalf of the more than three million members of the National Education Association (NEA), we would like to offer our support for the FY14 Labor-HHS-Education Appropriations bill scheduled for mark-up tomorrow before the Committee on Appropriations. We are pleased that the bill provides a roughly $3 billion increase for education programs. Actions in the committee on these issues may be included in the NEA Legislative Report Card for the 113th Congress. 

NEA commends Appropriations Committee Chairwoman Mikulski and Labor-HHS-Education Appropriations Subcommittee Chairman Harkin for their leadership in replacing the indiscriminate, across-the-board cuts of sequestration. NEA believes that to ensure equity, education funding should be protected from further cuts and formula based grants should be given priority. 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 is pleased that Title I and IDEA received increases over pre-sequestration FY2013 funding levels.  We believe these programs should continue to be given priority, because: 

  • Title I is a proven program needed to help 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 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. The FY13 sequester cuts the federal share has fallen to a shameful 14.9 percent and the Senate Appropriations committee’s increased allocation would help school districts from having to either raise taxes or dip into general education budgets to make up for the shortfalls. The increase helps take pressure off of state and local budgets already stretched thin and free up state and local funding for other education priorities. 

In addition, NEA applauds the committee’s commitment to early education, as demonstrated by strong investments in existing and new programs. NEA strongly supports the $750 million investment in new Preschool Development grants, as well as more than $1.6 billion increase to Head Start, including expanding the Early Head Start program and new Early Head Start Child Care Partnerships. Also, NEA supports increases to important programs critical to meeting specific, targeted needs of students such as School Improvement State Grants and the Promise Neighborhoods program, which supports high need communities that combine effective, cradle-to-career services for children and their families.  

NEA urges your opposition to any potential amendment that might cut funding for School Improvement State Grants in order to boost funding for charter schools.  

With regard to Pell Grants, NEA is supportive of the inflationary adjustment made to Pell grants – increasing the maximum award from $5,545 to $5,785 for FY2014 – helping make college more affordable for more students. 

While we appreciate the increases for several programs, we would have liked to have seen additional investment, beyond level or flat funding, in programs that promote more equitable access to education including English Language Acquisition State Grants and Rural Education programs.  

Also, NEA urges continued support for the Title II Teacher Quality State Grants program. These funds reach all school districts and states and allow 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 receive 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 all states and districts. 

NEA also urges the Senate to oppose any amendments that include anti-labor provisions or that would impact implementation of the Affordable Care Act (ACA). We understand that there may be amendments offered that would defund, restrict or weaken the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) and urge your opposition. We also understand that amendments may be offered to impede upon, defund or prevent full implementation of the ACA.  NEA asks you to oppose these amendments as they would detrimentally impact educators, students and their families. 

The FY14 Labor-HHS-Education bill reflects more of the needed commitment to education than we have seen in recent years where cuts have been the norm. We applaud the bill’s focus in helping to right this path in an effort to help ensure that every student has the tools and resources necessary to succeed.  

Sincerely, 

Mary Kusler
Director of Government Relations