Educators gather to defend kids in budget battle


by Amanda Litvinov and Brenda Alvarez

Educators and NEA local leaders are speaking up for students by urging Congress to find a budget solution that does not make further devastating cuts to public education and programs that working families depend on.

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In Northern Virginia, dozens of educators and community residents from Loudoun, Fairfax and Prince William counties gathered at Douglas School in Leesburg last Thursday to send a simple message to members of Congress: support kids, not cuts.

“Any deal to reduce the deficit must take a balanced approach between reducing spending and raising revenues,” said Michael Hairston, president of the Fairfax Education Association. “We cannot balance the budget on the backs of children.”

Hairston was joined by Joey Mathews, president of the Loudoun Education Association (LEA) and Jim Livingston, president of the Prince William Education Association (PWEA). The three urged their combined membership of 13,000 educators to take action by signing the “Kids, Not Cuts” pledge. By signing the pledge, educators signal their commitment to hold members of Congress accountable.

Educators in Delaware are also standing up and fighting for kids, not cuts. At a recent press conference held in conjunction with Americans for Democratic Action and other concerned organizations, Frederika Jenner, middle school science teacher and President of the Delaware State Education Association, brought a personal view to the devastating effects these cuts would have. According to Jenner:

It is my job—it’s our job—to stand up for those who have no voice: our youngest students, our special needs students, our English language learners, and all of our other students who are still struggling to succeed in school. It is our collective goal to make the lives and the futures of our students, their families, and their communities better and more secure.

Across-the-board cuts are a bad idea. It may seem like an easy fix, but it is not the right thing to do. Instead of sticking everyday Americans with the responsibility of covering the budget shortfall, why not have the wealthiest 2% pay their fair share?

Together, you and I can make a difference. Across-the-board cuts impact real people—your friends, your families, your neighbors. Some cuts never heal. Someone needs to stand up for kids across this country who have already been impacted by deep budget cuts. The American middle class has already made a significant down payment on deficit reduction. Spending cuts (as the result of recent appropriation bills and the debt ceiling deal from last year) totaling 1.5 trillion dollars have already been made.

Our political leaders should be on the side of the American people—they should stand up for what is right for children, their classrooms, and their schools. Every day, we educators see the effects on our students of food insecurity, housing insecurity and homelessness, and other signs of childhood poverty—social problems that have real and long-lasting effects on our children. More cuts will dramatically affect America’s children—our leaders in Washington should consider KIDS NOT CUTS!

Over the next few weeks Congress will be faced with tough decisions over the “fiscal cliff,” and some lawmakers continue to eye a bigger proposal that could cut funding to Head Start, special education, Medicaid, Medicare, and Social Security.

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