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Letter on FY 16 Labor HHS Education Appropriations Bill

June 16, 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 the FY 2016 Labor-HHS-Education Appropriations bill, scheduled for markup on Wednesday, June 17th. Overall, this bill cuts discretionary funding for the Department of Education by $2.8 billion – a bigger cut to education than from the FY 2013 sequester. Votes associated with this issue may be included in NEA’s Legislative Report Card for the 114th Congress.  

We are deeply concerned with the cuts to education, while recognizing that the allocation provided to the subcommittee because of the continuation of sequester-level funding is entirely inadequate. We believe this bill should serve as an undeniable example of why Congress must work together to reach a bipartisan budget agreement that ends sequester-level funding. 

We do wish to note the effort by Chairman Cole to provide increases for a few crucial programs like IDEA, Head Start, Impact Aid, and Indian Education. However, these increases should not come at the expense of other critical education programs that are eliminated in the bill including, among others, School Improvement State Grants, Striving Readers, School Counseling, Investing in Innovation, Advanced Placement, Full-Service Community Schools, and Arts in Education. Further, the bill also cuts Pell grant discretionary funding and Teacher Quality State Grants.  

The bill also freezes funding for Title I grants, 21st Century Community Learning Centers, Promise Neighborhoods, and English Language Acquisition – essential programs that help ensure all students receive a quality education regardless of their zip code. The lack of new investment in these programs is yet another example of the harmful effects of the Budget Control Acts funding caps and sequester. 

In addition, the defunding of implementation of the Affordable Care Act (ACA) would be devastating to the millions of children and their families receiving healthcare coverage as a result of the landmark law. We also oppose the deep, 27 percent cut to the National Labor Relations Board. 

The bill includes a number of policy riders that we believe are unnecessary and harmful to students and families. Specifically, the bill blocks the Department of Education from enforcing regulations regarding gainful employment designed to protect students from low-quality, high-debt career education programs.  It also would diminish the ability of the NLRB to act by preventing funding for any action related to providing employees the means to vote electronically in elections to determine collective bargaining representation. The bill also would prevent enforcement of the presidential executive order to raise the minimum wage for federal contract workers.   

We ask you to Vote No on the FY 2016 Labor-HHS-Education Appropriations bill, and help lead the effort to urge your colleagues to work in a bipartisan fashion that builds upon the work of the FY2014-15 Murray-Ryan deal to craft a budget that ends sequester level cuts for non-defense discretionary and defense programs, thereby providing funding for key investments in education. 

Sincerely,  

Mary Kusler
Director, Government Relations