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Letter to the appropriations conferees on FY08 appropriations for education

October 31, 2007

Dear Conferee:


On behalf of the National Education Association's (NEA) 3.2 million members, we would like to share our views on education funding as you craft a conference agreement on the FY08 Labor, HHS, Education Appropriations bill.

We are pleased that both the House and Senate bills provide significant increases for education programs and reverse the recent trend of cuts and freezes. In crafting the conference agreement, we urge you to retain the highest possible funding levels for key programs, including:

  • NO CHILD LEFT BEHIND ACT (NCLB). NCLB was based on laudable goals of maximizing student achievement and closing achievement gaps. Yet, many schools lack the resources needed to implement proven strategies to close achievement gaps, such as smaller classes, early childhood education, after-school programs, and improved professional development for teachers and education support professionals. Providing mandates without the resources necessary to implement them simply sets up schools and students for failure. For example, if Title I were fully funded at its authorized level, an additional 4.5 million children could receive needed services. These services are essential to closing achievement gaps.

  • IDEA. For more than 30 years the federal government has mandated that local school districts be responsible for educating special education students, regardless of cost. Over the past decade, the federal share of IDEA funding has risen, but the last two years have seen a slide in the percentage of special education funding provided by the federal government. Please reverse this trend and fund IDEA at the House-approved level.

  • PELL GRANTS. Access to postsecondary education allows individuals to succeed in jobs with career potential and upward mobility. Expanding postsecondary education opportunities also helps ensure a well-educated workforce that is competitive for the 21st century. As public universities, long seen as the "affordable" option, have to raise their tuition to make up for severe state budget cutbacks, the ability for low-income individuals to pay for college becomes an even greater challenge.

Again, we urge you to craft a conference agreement that provides the resources necessary to guarantee all children the quality public education to which they are entitled.

Sincerely,

Diane Shust, Director of Government Relations

Randall Moody, Manager of Federal Advocacy