Over the next week, Congress will decide funding levels for federal education aid to states and school districts. The legislative department at the American Federation of Teachers in Washington, D.C., says three options are being considered: (1) continue funding at current levels; (2) provide slight increases in an omnibus budget bill; or (3) provide a short-term extension into next year and allow new spending bills to be developed.
The new Republican leaders who will take over in the U.S. House next month prefer option three—a short-term extension followed by a rewrite–because they want to cut the budget for the current fiscal year by $100 billion. AFT says that approach is “a very dangerous choice for our programs” in public education.
Meanwhile, the current majority in the House is ready to pass an omnibus budget bill that provides increased funding for key programs, including many of our educational priorities. At stake are Title I aid for educating the disadvantaged, IDEA assistance for students with disabilities, and Pell Grants offering crucial financial aid for college students. The money in this bill generally would be used in the 2011-2012 school year.
Though the outlook for House passage of this full-year measure is good, in the Senate it is unclear whether an omnibus budget bill can pass. A vote on the issue in the Senate is expected later this week.
Here is where you come in. Senators need to hear about the impact of not supporting key programs. They need to know that without this federal education funding schools and colleges will face substantial cuts and layoffs. Already schools and colleges are bracing for the end of federal stimulus funding and for cuts in state funding due to unprecedented state-level budget shortfalls. Some of our most effective federal education programs are at risk of curtailment just when our students need help most.
Please help get this message through via e-mail to your two U.S. senators, Kay Bailey Hutchison and John Cornyn. Go to this AFT legislative-action Web site, and follow the prompts to send a short letter urging immediate action to pass the omnibus spending bill with increased education aid included: http://action.aft.org/c/44/p/dia/action/public/?action_KEY=1081.