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Letter to the House on the FY16 budget conference report vote

April 30, 2015

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 NO on S. Con. Res. 11, the budget conference report for FY16, which is being taken up for a vote today. Unfortunately, the proposed budget reflects the wrong priorities for our nation. Votes on this issue may be included in the NEA Legislative Report Card for the 114th Congress. 

We urge Congress to work in a bipartisan fashion and build upon the work of the FY2014-15 Murray-Ryan deal to craft a budget that ends sequester level cuts and leaves room for key investments in formula-funded programs like Title I, IDEA, and Head Start, which help our students most in need. Perpetuating the austerity approach, this budget maintains sequester-level caps for non-defense discretionary (NDD) for FY2016 and implements even greater cuts for FY2017 through FY 2025.  Starting in 2016, sequestration cuts NDD funding by approximately $37 billion a year, on top of the 2011 Budget Control Act’s already imposed funding cap. This 10 year plan more than doubles sequestration cuts and eviscerates NDD funding for education programs, and others, by $496 billion or 9.9% in total investments, sacrificing the well-being of the middle class and our most vulnerable populations without adding a penny more in revenue from corporations or the wealthy.  

We strongly oppose S. Con. Res. 11 because it will harm children and working families by undermining the very programs that close opportunity and resource gaps and correct inequalities. Specifically, we oppose:  

  • Locking in the FY 2016 sequester level cap for nondefense discretionary (NDD) spending, such as education, health care and job training. Since the FY 2016 sequester cap is nearly the same as the FY 2015 cap, failing to raise it will make it virtually impossible to provide needed investments in education from early learning through higher education. At the same time, this bill adds $38 billion for defense spending through the Overseas Contingency Operations (OCO) fund.  This accounting sleight-of-hand violates the principle established in the Budget Control Act and the FY14-15 Murray-Ryan deal that NDD and defense funding should be treated equally.
  • Making college more costly when Congress should be trying to help make college more affordable for more students. This budget cuts Pell Grant awards through the elimination of all mandatory funding for the next 10 years, totaling $85 billion in cuts and freezing the maximum grant at the current level. Also, ending in-school subsidies for undergraduate Stafford loans, resulting in $35 billion in cuts to the program, per the Congressional Budget Office.
  • Repealing the Affordable Care Act which would be devastating to the millions of children and their families who would lose healthcare. A repeal of ACA could allow people to be denied coverage because of a pre-existing condition and the right for parents to continue to cover their children on their health policies until age 26.
  • Slashing Medicaid, which provides healthcare for one-third of our nation’s children, by turning it into a block grant program. S. Con. Res. 11 cuts Medicaid and other health programs, increasing costs for states and resulting in fewer funds available for investments in education and other vital programs. Every day, NEA members see firsthand the link between access to healthcare and children’s success in school. Students struggle to learn if they do not come to school healthy. Further, this cut will shift costs to the states resulting in fewer funds being available for education and other vital programs.
  • Deep cuts included in this bill that will inevitably force inexcusable cuts to programs, such as education, nutrition and health, that support children and families most in need.  

The federal budget should ensure everyone has a fair shot and make the investments necessary for economic growth. We urge you to Vote No on S. Con. Res. 11, which endangers our economic recovery and also restrains future economic growth by depriving the nation of key investments in rebuilding our infrastructure and supporting high-value research and development, in addition to education. We look forward to work with members of Congress to advance policies that give all families a fair shot at reaching the American dream.   

Sincerely,    

Mary Kusler
Director, Government Relations