By Amanda Litvinov
With domestic spending already at its lowest level as a percentage of our economy since the 1960s, the GOP budget plan for 2014 released by Rep. Paul Ryan this week proposes to cut even more, at the cost of educators, students and families.
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By obsessively pursuing a balanced budget through spending cuts alone, Ryan imperils students’ futures by making them suffer the consequences of more massive cuts–larger classes, less individualized instruction, and fewer supports in vital areas, such as English language instruction and special education, that help them succeed in school.
Ryan and other Republican leaders claim there’s no alternative to the outrageous $5 trillion in cuts over the next 10 years as outlined in his budget blueprint. But there is an alternative, and it was presented by Sen. Patty Murray on behalf of Senate Democrats a few days ago.
The Murray plan puts students and working families first by making job creation and investments in our future—including restoring funding for public education, building and repairing infrastructure, and maintaining opportunities for young people to access higher education—top priorities.
By combining measured spending cuts with a fairer tax code that asks the most successful to pay their fair share, the Murray budget would surpass the bipartisan goal of reducing the deficit by $4 trillion in 10 years. And that deficit reduction is not achieved by pummeling middle-and lower-class families and schoolchildren.
Even a brief comparison of major points in each plan reveals the vast divide in priorities:
|Ryan Budget—Students & Middle Class Lose||Murray Budget—Students & Middle Class Win|
|Keeps reckless sequester cuts in place
through 2023, draining billions of dollars from public education. The nation’s 50 million students bear the brunt of the brutal cuts–especially those in low-income communities and those with special needs.
|Replaces nearly $1 trillion in remaining sequester cuts with more limited and targeted spending cuts, new savings and fairer tax policies. Builds on economic recovery underway with long-term investments in education, restoring funding for crucial federal programs like IDEA and Title I.|
|Freezes Pell Grants for 10 years, despite rising costs of higher education.||Protects the Pell Grant program and keeps student loan rates affordable.|
|Kills more than 2 million jobs in 2014 alone by failing to balance cuts with revenues. No job creating investments in infrastructure, such as rehabilitating public schools and community colleges.||Includes a $100 billion targeted jobs and infrastructure package that would repair the nation’s crumbling roads, bridges and schools, improving learning conditions for students.|
|Cuts more than $750 billion from Medicaid, and converts it to a block grant program, increasing the number of uninsured children who are less likely to succeed at school.||Increases funding to stabilize Medicaid, ensuring more than 30 million children keep their benefits.|
|Converts Medicare to voucher program, leaving seniors to fight private insurance companies on their own and removes coverage guarantee.||Protects Medicare for the 45 million seniors who rely on it now, and strengthens the program to allow for an estimated 25% more beneficiaries by 2020.|
(Unless otherwise noted, all data comes directly from the proposed budgets.)
So if Ryan’s plan isn’t good for working families, schoolchildren, college students, educators or most other everyday Americans, who is it good for?
The nation’s wealthiest corporations and citizens make out pretty well. In fact, the plan proposes to cut their tax rates by another 10 percent and nearly 15 percent, respectively.
Arizona math teacher and NEA President Dennis Van Roekel said the GOP budget plan “makes a mockery of shared sacrifice,” and would “inflict tremendous pain upon our most vulnerable citizens—children, low- and moderate-income Americans and seniors.”
“It’s wrong to balance budgets on the backs of students and the most vulnerable without demanding corporations and the rich pay their fair share in taxes. Congress has a responsibility to come up with a balanced approach to get our nation’s fiscal house in order without inflicting irreversible harm to 50 million students—risking their future and the future of our nation.”
Your members of Congress will vote on these bills in the coming days. Use the NEA Educator hotline–866-293-7278–to demand a budget that protects students and America’s recovering economy. Tell your elected leaders: Kids Not Cuts!