Posted In: Moving in Congress
by Colleen Flaherty
The House of Representatives passed a budget deal Thursday crafted by Senator Patty Murray (D-Wash.) and Representative Paul Ryan (R-Wis.). Known as the Bipartisan Budget Act of 2013, it reverses a majority of the harmful sequester cuts that have made tremendous, negative impacts on our nation’s schools.
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The measure replaces $63 billion in sequester cuts in the next two years, which will restore roughly 87 percent of non-defense discretionary spending. With the budget locked down for the next two years, Congress will hopefully avoid the bitter partisan battles that have adversely affected federal programs and led to an unprecedented government shutdown.
“Washington’s budget battles of the past few years have resulted in deep, damaging cuts that have fallen hard on America’s children and most vulnerable families,” said NEA director of government relations Mary Kusler.
These cuts, which total roughly $3 billion in 2013 alone, have resulted in federal education spending to pre-2004 levels while public schools are serving nearly 6 million more students.
As a result, children in higher-poverty communities are being disproportionately affected. As many as 57,000 children have already lost critical seats in Head Start classes, Impact Aid — which helps districts that have a big federal presence, such as a military base or an American Indian reservation nearby, make up for lost tax revenue — has been drastically reduced, and school districts across the nation are hurting from these drastic budget cuts.
The budget bill also takes a step forward in providing preschool for all children by including a reserve fund for Early Childhood Education. Study after study shows that preschool provides children with important opportunities.
“The first years of a child’s life are a vital window of opportunity,” said Kusler. “Research shows that children who attend high-quality pre-kindergarten programs are less likely to drop out of school, repeat grades, need special education and will have greater opportunity to succeed in life.”
However, the bill is still flawed. Federal employees—such as educators at the Department of Defense schools who serve children in military families—are again being forced to contribute more to deficit reduction after years of furloughs, pay freezes and less retirement.
It is wrong to continue demanding even more from these hardworking, middle-class Americans who play critical roles in keeping our nation safe and secure, while not closing even a single costly corporate tax loophole.
Overall, however, while the bill may be an imperfect compromise, it is a solid foundation for federal education funding.
“Congress is finally hearing what educators, parents and students have been saying: no more cuts to education. It is time to focus on making smart investments in education and job creation which will grow our economy.”