Letter to the House and Senate Opposing the FY2011 CR
April 13, 2011
On behalf of the 3.2 million members of the National Education Association (NEA), we would like to express our opposition to the FY2011 continuing resolution. We are disappointed that this budget deal relies on so many cuts to core programs serving the most vulnerable in our nation. Such cuts are harmful for the short-term and set a very troubling precedent for the fiscal year 2012 budget and beyond. We also strongly oppose the use of scarce taxpayer dollars to fund private school vouchers for the District of Columbia—a program that is neither successful for students, nor supported by local government. We urge you to vote NO on this legislation. Votes associated with these issues may be included in the NEA Legislative Program for the 112th Congress.
NEA believes that how we choose to spend our resources should reflect our priorities as an entire nation. Children should be a top priority for our support and attention, not an afterthought in funding proposals. Middle class families in America are struggling. Children, as a consequence, are feeling the burdens of their parents’ economic worry and uncertainty and in many cases their ability to stay afloat. Here are the harsh facts about the impact of the economic crisis on our nation’s children:
- More than one in five children is poor;
- One in four children is at risk of hunger;
- Nearly 8 million children lack health insurance; and
- The number of children with at least one unemployed parent in 2010 (over 7 million) has nearly doubled from the start of the recession. (First Focus, Cutting Spending for Children will Not Fix Our Budget Problems, http://firstfocus.net/sites/default/files/DCK_Overview.pdf, April 2011)
The condition of our nation’s children is not confined to a small number of isolated rural towns or concentrated wholly in our cities. The statistics clearly indicate that the breadth of this problem reaches into every state and in most communities across this country. Congress should not ignore the depth of this problem.
We are very disappointed that the CR includes an expansion of the District of Columbia private school voucher program, particularly given the cuts to other programs and the overall scarcity of dollars. Our focus should be on strategies proven to increase student achievement, such as increasing parental involvement, strengthening teacher training, and reducing class size. And, our goal should be to prepare all students for the jobs of the future, not to allow a few students and parents to choose a private school at taxpayer expense.
We recognize that we must address the nation’s serious fiscal challenges. But, we do not believe cutting core education programs is the right approach. We do appreciate the protection of funding for Pell Grants and Head Start. However, we are very concerned that the across-the-board cut would impact proven programs like Title I and IDEA, which provide essential services to students with the greatest needs in every state and district in the nation. Congress has long recognized the critical role that federal funding plays in attempting to level the playing field for poor students, as well as its promise to provide funding necessary to provide students with disabilities services to which they are legally entitled. Cutting such programs and relying increasingly on competitive grants to distribute any increases in education funding will not ensure students the resources they need to succeed. While we are not opposed to competitive grants as a general proposition, we are extremely disappointed that this CR appears to walk away from Congress’s historic support for and responsibility to provide basic aid to all states.
Cutting spending for children will not only hurt kids, it will hurt our economy. Research clearly demonstrates that investments in education help grow the economy. In addition to widespread productivity increases, the higher earnings of educated workers generate higher tax payments at the local, state, and federal levels. Consistent productive employment reduces dependence on public income-transfer programs and all workers, regardless of education level, earn more when there are more college graduates in the labor force. (Education Pays, The College Board, 2007).
Congress should go back to the drawing board and find a solution that doesn’t harm America’s students.
Director of Government Relations
Manager of Federal Advocacy