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Letter to the House on the FY17 Budget

March 15, 2016

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 Chairman Price’s FY17 Budget Resolution being marked up in the House Budget Committee this Wednesday. Unfortunately, the proposed budget reflects the wrong priorities for our nation. Perpetuating the failed austerity approach, this budget cuts $6.5 trillion in investments over the next decade 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. Votes on this issue may be included in the NEA Legislative Report Card for the 114th Congress.

This budget runs counter to the work accomplished last fall when Congress passed the Bipartisan Budget Act of 2015(BBA). Passage of the budget agreement showed that members of Congress recognized the importance of ending harmful sequester level funding by raising budget caps while also ensuring parity between Defense and Non-Defense Discretionary (NDD) programs like education, health care, and job training. This proposed budget raises Defense spending over the next decade while simultaneously calling for drastic cuts to NDD programs. We urge Congress to work in a bipartisan fashion to craft a budget that ends sequester level cuts and leaves room for key investments in formula-funded programs like Title I and IDEA, which help our students most in need.

The timing of these proposed cuts would be perilous for the recently passed Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA) which finally puts an end to the flawed policies of No Child Left Behind and ushers in the beginning of a new era in public education.  To realize the full potential of ESSA, Congress must start down the path of providing adequate resources for investments in education funding to help close opportunity and resource gaps and ensure all students have access to a high-quality education.

Specifically, we oppose:

  • Deep cuts to education and other domestic programs. This proposal would cut NDD programs which are already at historically low levels, by $887 billion over the next decade – this would force even deeper cuts to crucial investments like education depriving students of the opportunity they all deserve for a quality education. Meanwhile, this bill eliminates parity between Defense and NDD programs with a call for an increase of $267 billion just for Defense over the same period.
  •  Freezing Pell Grant awards for the next 10 years when Congress should be trying to help make college more affordable for more students. This budget would eliminate multiple education programs.
  • Slashing Medicaid and other health programs, which provides healthcare for one-third of our nation’s children, by turning it into a block grant program. The Price proposal cuts Medicaid and other health programs by more than $1 trillion over ten years, increasing costs for states 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 at the state level.
  • Slashing SNAP funding by turning it into a block grant program — leaving states with the tough decision of determining who will no longer receive assistance. Educators know first-hand that hungry children struggle to learn and that access to an adequate and healthy diet is essential to academic success. The clear link between good nutrition and learning is evident in schools across the nation every day.
  •  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 would take away the fear from being 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.
  • Voucherizing Medicare and shifting costs to seniors. Under the proposed plan, seniors would receive “premium support”—fixed payments to help buy coverage, which would likely fail to keep pace with rising healthcare costs. The plan also could also lead to the gradual demise of traditional Medicare by making the pool of beneficiaries smaller, older, and sicker—and increasingly costly to cover.
  • A balanced budget constitutional amendment which would damage the economy, not strengthen it.  Demanding that policymakers cut spending and/or raise taxes even when the economy slows is the opposite of what is needed to stabilize a weak economy and avert recessions. Such steps would risk tipping a faltering economy into recession or worsening an ongoing downturn, costing large numbers of jobs while blocking worthy investments to stimulate jobs and growth.

The federal budget should ensure everyone has a fair shot and make the investments necessary for growth in an economy that works for all of us, not just the wealthy. We urge you Vote No on Chairman Price’s FY 17 budget resolution, which endangers our 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 working with this Committee and members of Congress to advance policies that give all families a fair shot at reaching the American dream.

Sincerely,

Mary Kusler
Director, Government Relations