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Letter to the Senate Appropriations Committee on the FY17 Labor-HHS-Education Appropriations Bill

June 08, 2016

Dear Senator:

On behalf of the three million members of the National Education Association (NEA), and the students they serve, we write to offer our views on the FY 2017 Labor-HHS-Education Appropriations bill, scheduled for consideration on Thursday, June 9. Despite including nominal increases for a handful of critical education programs, overall, this bill cuts discretionary funding for education by $220 million below the FY2016 enacted level.

While recognizing that the allocation provided to the subcommittee is inadequate, we believe more could have been done to prioritize necessary investments in education. Title I and IDEA only received marginal increases in this bill. At these funding levels Title I and IDEA do not even provide the same level of service for each student as they did in 2010, when adjusted for inflation.

To realize the full potential of the recently passed Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA) Congress must start down the path of providing adequate resources through an FY17 Labor-HHS-Education appropriation, particularly a significant increase to Title I. Investments in education are needed 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 should again raise the still unrealistic budget caps, beyond even last year’s Bipartisan Budget Act.

We do wish to note the effort by Chairman Blunt and Ranking Member Murray to provide increases for some crucial programs and for working to restore year-round eligibility for Pell Grants. Head Start, Impact Aid, the US Department of Education Office of Civil Rights, and the Child Card Development Block Grant all received slight funding increases. At the same time, we are deeply concerned by the steep cut to the former Title II program - now known as Supporting Effective Instruction State Grants which support educators in the classroom as they work with students in need - and the cuts to 21st Century Community Learning Centers after-school programs. Additionally, we believe ESSA’s Title IV (Student Support and Academic Enrichment Grants) which helps provide a well-rounded education for all students should receive a higher allocation than the bill currently provides.  

As work continues on the Labor-HHS-Education appropriation bill we strongly urge you to oppose any ideological policy riders that may be attached.

We thank you for considering our views on the FY 2017 Labor-HHS-Education Appropriations bill.

Sincerely, 

Mary Kusler
Director, Government Relations