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Letter to the House on the Consolidated Appropriations Act of 2016

December 17, 2015

Dear Representative:

On behalf of the three million members of the National Education Association (NEA) and the students they serve, we urge you to VOTE YES on the Consolidated Appropriations Act of 2016. This FY16 omnibus appropriations bill includes a Labor-HHS-Education allocation that prioritizes critical education programs that provide targeted assistance for students most in need and includes a two-year delay of the Affordable Care Act’s (ACA) excise tax provision. Passing this bill is critical; it would be a mistake to let the government shut down or to revert to a short-term continuing resolution for all agencies. Votes associated with this bill may be included in the NEA Legislative Report Card for the 114th Congress.

We are pleased that the bill builds from the Bipartisan Budget Act of 2015, which took an important step in providing relief to sequester level cuts, and includes an overall Department of Education funding increase of $1.2 billion. Crucially, this bill prioritizes critical formula grant programs that are so essential to creating opportunity and providing targeted help to students in poverty, children with disabilities, and those most in need of extra assistance. The bill makes added investments to these goals by increasing funding for Title I by $500 million, IDEA state grants by $415 million, and HEAD Start by $570 million. Preschool Development Grants have been restored at $250 million which will provide high-quality early learning for more than 100,000 children, and the maximum Pell Grant award will be increased by $140 to $5,915 through the bill.

Further program increases that will help students and families most in need include Impact Aid, 21st Century Community Learning Centers, Rural Education, Indian Education, Arts in Education, Promise Neighborhoods, Federal TRIO programs, and the Child Care and Development Block Grant. Also, funding has been restored for Title II, Teacher Quality State Grants that provide for professional development and class size reduction.

The bill also includes a two-year delay on the ACA’s excise tax provision. While we continue to support full repeal of the excise tax on high-cost plans from the ACA, the delay will provide much-needed short-term relief. The excise tax provision of the ACA is a 40 percent tax on the cost of employer-sponsored health coverage that exceeds certain amounts, generally $10,200 for individual coverage and $27,500 for family coverage – it’s often thought to only affect high-end and overly-generous health plans. In reality, however, this tax will have an indiscriminate impact on a broad range of individuals and families who, for reasons they cannot control, have health plan premiums that already or soon will reach the tax’s cost thresholds. We believe repealing the excise tax is an important and necessary improvement to the Affordable Care Act, a law we strongly support.

We appreciate the exclusion of policy provisions that have no place in an omnibus bill. For instance, prohibition of expanding the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals or implementing the proposed Deferred Action for Parents of Americans programs, or riders to block the implementation of the Department of Education’s Gainful Employment rule or any other higher education policy. NEA members are also pleased that multiple anti-worker riders were not included that were present in the House and Senate Committee marks, like preventing the National Labor Relations Board from implementing rules to streamline union elections.

We urge you to Vote Yes on the Consolidated Appropriations Act of 2016 which makes needed investments in education, students and communities by correctly prioritizing programs that create opportunity and target resources to students most in need, regardless of their zip code.   


Mary Kusler

Director, Government Relations