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Letter to the Senate Appropriations Committee on FY16 Labor HHS Education Appropriations

June 24, 2015

Dear Senator:

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 Thursday, June 25. Overall, this bill cuts funding for the Department of Education by $1.7 billion – which is part of the bill’s overall discretionary funding cut of $3.6 billion below the FY2015 enacted level. 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; recognizing that the allocation provided to the subcommittee because of the continuation of sequester-level funding is entirely inadequate. With Congress moving forward on ESEA reauthorization, it is crucial that adequate resources are invested in education to help close opportunity and resource gaps and ensure all students have access to a high-quality education. We believe this bill falls short of that goal and 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 Blunt to provide increases for some crucial programs like IDEA and Title I. However, greater investment is needed. Also, these increases should not come at the expense of other critical education programs which are cut including, School Improvement State Grants, Preschool development grants, Teach Quality State Grants, 21st Century Community Learning Centers, Promise Neighborhoods, English Language Acquisition (ELL), Magnet schools assistance, School Counseling, Investing in Innovation, and Advanced Placement.

Further, the bill also rescinds funds from the FY 2015 Pell grant surplus and cuts funding to Supplemental Education Opportunity Grants and Federal Work Study. All three programs help low- and moderate-income college students and their families cover the increasing cost of higher education.  

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 significant cuts for Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act training programs reauthorized on a bipartisan basis in 2014, as this could result in over 1.4 million youth, dislocated workers, and veterans losing access to employment and training services.

The bill also includes a number of policy riders that we believe are harmful to workers. Specifically, the bill prevents the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) from implementing rules to streamline union elections and reduce unnecessary litigation, as well as, preventing the NLRB from issuing new rules allowing employees to vote electronically in union elections.

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