By Amanda Litvinov
Educators across the country are celebrating the many positive outcomes of Election 2012 for public education in federal, state and local races. And they should! Teachers, support professionals, professors, students and retired educators made a difference by educating voters about what was at stake for students and schools.
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Now educators, parents, and all advocates of public schools are turning their focus to the budget battle that will resume when Congress returns next week. Anita Jackson, who taught K-12 special education students for 30 years in Virginia, is one of them.
“When school funding is cut, it could be the decision that makes or breaks a child’s progress,” she said. Jackson, who is now a library tech in a middle school, has witnessed first-hand how budget cuts affect the services schools are able to provide.
Nearly $1 billion for special education programs and $5 billion in overall federal education spending will evaporate if lawmakers can’t agree on a budget solution and across-the-board cuts go into effect on January 2.
Should those cuts happen, roughly 13,400 educators serving special needs students would likely lose their jobs according to an NEA analysis.
Expecting schools to serve the needs of all students while cutting their funding again and again just doesn’t add up, said Jackson. “When it comes to special ed, personnel is needed to provide individualized aid—all of that is crucial.”
All federal education programs are at stake, including those that support early childhood learning, rural schools, children living in poverty and English language learners. Millions of students will lose services and nearly 80,000 educators will lose their jobs.
But the budget proposals lawmakers have brought to the table to prevent across-the-board cuts have so far focused on cutting essential services and public education while ignoring the obvious need to stop giving massive tax breaks to the wealthiest corporations and individuals.
Paul Ryan’s budget would cut $2.2 billion dollars from IDEA, which makes up the bulk of special education funding in schools, over the next two years. The Ryan Budget—which NEA President Dennis Van Roekel has referred to as an “American Dream killer”—also proposes drastic cuts to early childhood education, would reduce or eliminate services to 4 million low-income K-12 students, and grants that help students attain a college education.
Although Ryan was not elected Vice President, he is the current chair of the Budget Committee in the U.S. House of Representatives and will be a leader of those looking to cut their way to a balanced budget.
President Obama realizes this approach is not only impossible, but irresponsible, and has called on Congress to ask the nation’s most fortunate to pay their fair share.
Anita Jackson has her own message to Congress: “It’s going to cost America in the long run to go cheap on public education. It is not wasteful to provide adequate funding. American children and their public educators that work with them and serve them do so much on a dime, all they’re asking for is a quarter, not a dollar.”
“Can we get a quarter?”
You can help stop these devastating cuts to public education funding. Take the first step today by signing our Kids Not Cuts pledge to hold your members of Congress accountable and urge them to stand up for kids and working families by rejecting a bad budget deal.