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Letter to House Appropriations Committee on Labor-HHS-Education

June 13, 2007

Dear Representative: 

On behalf of the National Education Association's (NEA) 3.2 million members, we would like to share our views on the Labor, HHS, Education Appropriations bill approved by the subcommittee last week. Overall, we are very pleased with the significant increases provided for key programs such as Title I and the rejection of many of the Administration's proposals. We are deeply disappointed, however, with the insufficient funding proposed for special education and cannot offer our full support of the bill unless it includes a significant improvement in this area.  

A strong public education system is critical to the future strength and economic well-being of our nation. Yet, too many of our students still are not receiving the tools and help they need to succeed. We are greatly encouraged, therefore, that the bill approved by the subcommittee would provide much-needed increases for Title I and Title II as well for Pell Grants. These increases will make a real difference in helping ensure all students the quality education to which they are entitled. We are also pleased that the subcommittee rejected many of the cuts, funding freezes, and outright elimination of critical programs that had been proposed by the Administration.

Unfortunately, the subcommittee bill falls far short on special education funding, essentially freezing funding at the current level. Under the subcommittee mark, the federal share of special education costs would remain at 17.2 percent, an embarrassingly low level and a far cry from the 40 percent promised decades ago. It is simply unacceptable to do nothing more than stop the backward slide of recent years. The Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) is the one program that touches virtually every school district in the nation. This Congress should have the wherewithal to provide a real, meaningful increase in special education funding. There is no single more important step Congress can take to strengthen public education than to put IDEA on a path to full funding.

NEA strongly supports much of the subcommittee mark. We hope the full committee will take steps to remedy the unacceptable IDEA funding level so that we can offer our full support for the bill.

Sincerely,

Diane Shust, Director of Government Relations

Randall Moody, Manager of Federal Advocacy