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Letter on FY 15 Budget Deal

December 12, 2014

Dear Representative: 

On behalf of the three million members of the National Education Association (NEA), and the students they serve, we urge you to VOTE YES on the Consolidated and Further Continuing Appropriations Act of 2015. While far from perfect, this bill continues on the path created by last year’s budget agreement, and prioritizes critical education programs that provide targeted assistance for students most in need. Passing this bill is critical, it would be a mistake to let the government shut down or to revert to a short-term continuing resolution for all agencies. Votes associated with this bill may be included in the NEA Legislative Report Card for the 113th Congress.  

We are pleased that this budget agreement includes a Labor-HHS-Education allocation that prioritizes critical formula grant programs that are so essential to addressing inequities and providing targeted help to students in poverty, children with disabilities, and those most in need of extra assistance.  Given the constraints imposed by the unwise budget caps, we appreciate the effort to provide at least a small increase for Title I, IDEA and English Language Learners (ELL), though none of the programs are back to pre-sequester level cuts. Formula grants like these provide more funding certainty to states and local school districts rather than competitive grants that typically create winners and losers, leaving too many students behind.    

The bill includes other positive aspects for students and families most in need. The Child Care and Development Block Grant funding is increased by $75 million, the maximum Pell grant award is increased by $100, and small increases are provided to minority serving institutions of higher education, including HBCU’s. We also appreciate the bipartisan agreement made to prevent an overall waiver that would have walked away from important child nutrition and school meal standards which have been crucial in combating child hunger, promoting wellness, and preparing students to learn.    

While the bill includes the right priorities for education, we are deeply dismayed by the unnecessary inclusion of multiple unneeded riders that continue and in fact worsen the existing economic gap between the wealthiest and those trying to make ends meet and support their families. Also disheartening, a policy rider that will loosen campaign finance laws and permit significantly larger contributions by wealthy individual donors to party committees, further eroding our broken system of big money financing campaigns which has crowded out the voices of ordinary Americans.

Notwithstanding the riders, this FY15 funding measure continues the work that the Murray-Ryan budget agreement started, recognizing that continuing sequester level funding is the wrong approach for moving our nation forward. While the small, though important, increased funding for key education programs are notable, they underscore the dire need going forward to fully replace the sequester in future years in order to allow Congress to make the needed investments in our students.  

Lastly, we commend the bipartisan work by Appropriators to craft this budget proposal. While it could not fully correct the devastating impact of the sequester on education, students and communities, it takes critical steps in the right direction, and it correctly prioritizes programs that help students most in need.  We urge you to vote yes on the Consolidated and Further Continuing Appropriations Act of 2015.

Sincerely,

Mary Kusler
Director, Government Relations