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Letter to the Senate on the EXPIRE Act (S. 2260)

May 13, 2014

Dear Senator: 

On behalf of the three million members of the National Education Association, and the students they serve, we urge you to VOTE YES on cloture to advance the bipartisan EXPIRE Act (S. 2260), which includes a provision to help communities with school construction needs through a long-running bond program, and a modest tax deduction to help educators defray out of pocket costs on classroom supplies. Votes associated with this issue may be included in the NEA Legislative Report Card for the 113th Congress.   

As funding cuts lead to shortages in essential materials and more students come to school without basic learning tools, educators continue to reach into their own pockets to purchase classroom supplies — such as pencils, glue, scissors, and facial tissues — as well as instructional materials. During the 2012-13 school year, 99.5 percent of all public school teachers dipped into their own pockets to help equip their classrooms. Together, they spent $1.6 billion on classroom supplies and instructional materials. Individual teachers’ out-of-pocket expenditures averaged $485 nationwide, and 1 in 10 teachers spent $1,000 or more — double the percentage previously reported (Source: National School Supply and Equipment Association, 2013 Retail Market Awareness Study). The educator tax deduction is a bipartisan recognition of educators’ financial sacrifices as well as of the needs of students who lack even the basic necessities for success in school. 

Likewise, too many of today’s students are housed in yesterday’s buildings with out-of-date technology and often unsafe, crumbling infrastructures. More than 40 years old on average, our nation’s public schools could need as much as $500 billion in repairs and upgrades (Source: Economic Policy Institute). Our nation invested just $10 billion in school construction in 2012, half the amount spent prior to the Great Recession (Source: 2013 State of Our Schools Report, Center for Green Schools). 

The Qualified Zone Academy Bond program has proven to be an efficient and cost-effective way to help disadvantaged communities address pressing renovation and repair needs. QZABs assist school districts in rural and urban communities by providing a financing mechanism to renovate buildings and invest in equipment and technology. Investors receive a federal tax credit equal to the amount of interest payable on the bonds, thereby relieving local taxpayers and municipalities of the interest burden. A school that is awarded a QZAB may use the funds to renovate and repair buildings, invest in equipment, and update technology. 

We do note that the cost of the overall tax extenders bill is not offset, while other critical bills like an extension of unemployment benefits have faced repeated calls for offsets. We look forward to working with the Senate the remainder of this term to ensure critical needs facing students and working families are met. Again, we urge you to VOTE YES on cloture on S. 2260. 

Sincerely, 

Mary Kusler
Director, Government Relations