NEAs Response to the Bush Administration's FY 2005 Budget Request
I. Funding for Critical Programs
The Administration's proposal falls short in a number of areas, failing to provide the resources necessary to ensure great public schools for every child. For the Department of Education, the Administration proposes only a 3 percent increase, which would be the smallest percentage increase (as well as the smallest dollar increase) in the last nine years.
The request does include increases for select programs, including the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA), Title I, and literacy. However, the IDEA and Title I increases fall short of promised levels, and all increased program funding appears to come at the expense of other important programs. The request also does include some positive initiatives, including extension/expansion of the educator tax deduction and an increase in funding for school modernization bonds.
Overall, "No Child Left Behind" (NCLB) Act programs would only receive a 1.8 percent increase, not even sufficient to cover inflation, resulting in fewer services to students.
NEA Priority: Keep the commitment to fully fund Title I at the authorized level of $20.5 billion for FY05.
Rationale: Almost 27,000 schools did not make adequate yearly progress under the achievement and accountability provisions of NCLB, with over 6,000 already designated as "needing improvement." These schools must show improvement quickly, but must do so under what are in many cases severe budget cutbacks. Most activities that schools will put in place to improve student achievement, such as after-school or summer school programs, enhanced and expanded professional development for teachers, or smaller class sizes, all require additional resources.
Administration Proposal: The Administration proposes an increase of $1 billion, bringing total funding to $13.342 billion. Although this represents an increase of 8 percent over current funding, it falls far short (by $7.158 billion) of the $20.5 billion level authorized in "No Child Left Behind." Compared to the amount needed to fully serve all eligible low-income children, some 4.6 million children will be left behind.
Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA)
NEA Priority: Provide mandatory annual increases in accordance with the Hagel-Harkin (S.939) proposal, to bridge the current funding gap, and reach full funding.
Rationale: Though strides have been made to increase funding for IDEA, funding levels remain far from the promised 40 percent of the costs of providing services to students. Because of the limited funding available, schools are often unable to provide the full spectrum of critical special education services mandated under IDEA. The lack of sufficient funding to meet the needs of students with disabilities also places considerable strain on the entire school budget, as administrators are forced to increase tax revenue or cut other critical programs to provide mandated IDEA services.
Administration Proposal: The Administration proposes an increase of $1 billion, bringing total funding to $11.068 billion. This amount falls $5.8 billion below the amount necessary to stay on track toward full funding under the Hagel-Harkin plan. At the Administration's proposed rate of increase, it would take 30 years to reach full funding.
NEA Priority: Support an increase of at least $500 in the Pell Grant maximum for FY05, bringing the maximum to $4,550.
Rationale: Access to postsecondary education opportunities allows individuals to succeed in jobs with career potential and upward mobility. Census data consistently show that those with higher educational attainment have higher median earnings. Expanding postsecondary education opportunities also helps ensure the well-educated workforce our nation needs to compete in the 21st century. As public universities and community colleges, which have long been 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.
Administration Proposal: The Administration proposes no increase in the Pell Grant maximum award over the current (FY04) level of $4,050. This would be the second consecutive year of a freeze for the maximum award.
NEA Priority: Increase funding for Teacher Quality State Grants by $1 billion.
Rationale: Ensuring a qualified teacher in every classroom is critical to maximizing student achievement. Schools facing new teacher quality mandates need increased resources to help all teachers meet new "highly qualified" requirements. Additional funding is also needed to hire teachers to reduce class size, enhance and expand ongoing professional development, and establish high-quality mentoring programs for new teachers.
Administration's Proposal: The Administration proposes freezing funding for Teacher Quality State Grants.
NEA Priority: Provide increased funding to move toward serving all eligible children in need of Head Start services; Reject block grants.
Rationale: Despite its importance in helping children start school ready to learn, Head Start remains significantly underfunded. As a result, it only serves approximately 60 percent of eligible children.
Block grants would undermine the program's current high standards for student performance and staff qualifications that have been key to the success of Head Start. Turning Head Start over to the states, even in a limited pilot program, is a bad idea as states have no federal monitoring and few have real accountability systems in place. Furthermore, the added layer of bureaucracy will drain already scarce resources from early education programs.
Administration Proposal: The Administration proposes a cost-of-living increase of $169 million, bringing total funding to $6.9 billion. This level will not allow any increase in the number of children served. The Administration also proposes $45 million to support a nine-state block grant program.
Child Care Development Block Grant/Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (CCDGB/TANF)
NEA Priority: Ensure sufficient resources to provide quality child care options for working families.
Rationale: Low-income families are concentrated at the bottom of the labor pool, often in part-time or temporary positions, and are among the first fired during economic crises. Quality early childhood education is essential to future success in school. Low-income parents struggling to achieve independence should be assured that their children are safe and are receiving the necessary skills for later success.
Administration's Proposal: The Administration proposes freezing funding for both CCDBG and TANF. In the best-case scenario, 300,000 children would lose child care at this funding level.
NEA Priority: Provide funding to address the adolescent reading and graduation rate crisis.
Rationale: There is no federal program to address the needs of older students who lack the reading skills necessary to meet graduation requirements in most states. Eight million students in grades 4-12 currently read below basic levels.
Administration Proposal: The Administration proposes $100 million targeted to address adolescent literacy. However, the Administration also proposes to eliminate or cut programs such as dropout prevention and career and technical education that have proven track records of helping adolescents stay in school.
Teacher Tax Deduction
NEA Priority: Increase the above-the-line deduction for educators' classroom supply expenses to $400, expand it to cover professional development expenses, and make it permanent.
Rationale: Educators are spending more of their own funds each year to supply their classrooms, including purchasing essential items such as pencils, glue, scissors, and facial tissues. In 2002, Congress enacted a two-year $250 tax deduction for educators' out-of-pocket classroom supply expenses as part of the economic stimulus package. The deduction expired at the end of 2003.
President's Proposal: The Administration's request includes the NEA-supported proposal to extend the deduction, increase it from $250 to $400, and expand it to cover professional development expenses.
Qualified Zone Academy Bonds
NEA Priority: Extend authority to issue QZABs.
Rationale: America's public schools are in desperate need of repair and renovation. Yet, many school systems lack the fiscal capacity to finance needed repairs. The QZAB program encourages the development of innovative school programs through public/private partnerships.
Administration Proposal: The Administration proposes to extend QZAB authority for two years.
II. Program Eliminations
Administration Proposal: The Administration proposes eliminating 38 critical education programs, totaling $1.41 billion.
General NEA Comments: NEA supports providing additional resources for students, educators, schools and postsecondary institutions to meet the increasing demands of skyrocketing enrollments and the goals of improving educational achievement at all levels. NEA also supports protecting and enhancing programs with proven track records of helping students achieve academic success. Proposed program eliminations in school reform, education technology, education research, dropout prevention, smaller learning communities, career and technical education, school counseling and others counter the potentially positive impact of the President's proposed increases and new initiatives. Creating new programs or increasing existing ones at the expense of others does not represent the commitment needed for education.
III. Public Policy
The Administration's budget request proposes using the budget process to make a number of troubling public policy changes. NEA has strong concerns about several of these proposals. The Administration proposal also fails to address other important policy concerns, such as the elimination of Social Security Offsets.
NEA Priority: Protect public schools and the students they serve by rejecting efforts to divert scarce dollars to private schools.
Rationale: Research clearly demonstrates that vouchers do little to improve student achievement. Rather than experimenting with programs already found to make no real difference in student achievement, we should focus on ensuring that all students have the tools for success — including smaller class sizes, more parental involvement, up-to-date materials and high teacher quality.
Administration Proposal: The Administration proposes a $50 million national voucher program as well as an additional $14 million for vouchers for the District of Columbia.
NEA Priority: Protect students' right to information and educators' freedom of speech by rejecting restrictions on federal sex education dollars.
Rationale: All students should have access to important health and sexuality information through appropriately established sex education programs in order to protect themselves and make informed decisions. Public schools should be permitted to address the educational needs of all students and should not be restrained by restrictions on free speech.
Administration Proposal: The Administration proposes $50 million for Abstinence Education State Grants, as well as a $112 million increase for Community-Based Abstinence Education (from $74 million in FY04 to $186 million in FY05). These grants provide support to public and private entities for the development and implementation of abstinence education programs for adolescents ages 12 through 18. Programs funded through this program must promote abstinence-only education and must agree not to provide a participating adolescent any other information regarding sexual conduct in the same setting.
Budget Enforcement Mechanisms
NEA Priority: Oppose shifts in the constitutional balance of power that would impact determinations of federal spending.
Rationale: Current constitutional protections ensure an open process with opportunity for debate from all sides. Limiting this debate or placing other restrictions on the budget process would severely curtail the input of congressional officials elected by their constituents to provide just such input.
Administration Proposal: The Administration proposes a series of changes to the federal budget processes, including:
- Line Item Veto, which would give the executive branch legislative power over spending;
- Automatic Continuing Resolutions, which would wrest control from Congress about when and how to pass appropriations legislation;
- Sequestration, which would trigger sequestration of discretionary or direct spending "as appropriate" in instances where increased spending for mandatory programs is not offset by an equal amount of spending cuts; and
- Joint Budget Resolution, which would replace concurrent budget resolutions, require agreement of the President, and assume the force of law, thereby eliminating Congress' discretion in creating and executing budget resolutions.
Social Security Offsets
NEA Priority: Repeal the unfair Government Pension Offset (GPO) and Windfall Elimination Provision (WEP).
Rationale: The GPO and WEP unfairly reduce the retirement benefits of public employees who have dedicated their lives to serving their communities and their country. The resulting loss of income jeopardizes the retirement security of those who have chosen public service — often at considerable financial sacrifice — and even forces some into poverty.
Administration Proposal: The Administration proposal does not address remedying the unfair offsets. However, the Administration does propose increased employer reporting requirements aimed at identifying additional individuals who should be subject to the offsets.