GOP Budget Slashes Education and Health Services

On Tuesday, House Budget Committee Chairman Paul Ryan (R-WI) unveiled his much-anticipated 2012 budget proposal. Ryan calls his program The Path to Prosperity, which it probably is – if you happen to be rich and are looking to get richer. If, on the other hand, you are a middle-class American who values public education and affordable health care, you’re in for a rough ride.

Even as the federal government lurches toward a shut down this weekend – because of right-wing lawmakers insisting on draconian cuts to critical services – Congress still is looking ahead to the next fiscal year. On Tuesday, a House budget committee will take a look at Ryan’s proposal for 2011-2012.

In a letter to the budget committee, NEA’s Kim Anderson and Mary Kusler, director of government relations and manager of federal advocacy, respectively, wrote: “The budget resolution should reflect the priorities of our nation. Unfortunately, the proposed budget reflects the wrong priorities, choosing to meet arbitrary budget targets on the backs of the middle class and our most vulnerable populations.”

The proposed budget ignores proven educational research, slashes programs for children and the elderly, and undermines this country’s economic improvement. While it claims it would pay down the debt, the plan would achieve those savings by foisting the cost of Medicaid and Medicare onto the backs of state legislatures – which clearly can’t afford it.

Its key provisions would: First, turn Medicaid into a block grant program. (Of the 68 million people covered by Medicaid last year, half were children.

“Children who lack access to health care services are less likely to come to school healthy and ready to learn and to succeed academically,” Anderson and Kusler explained. And it also would convert Medicare into a voucher program. And don’t think that it won’t be rejecting the sickest patients – or charging higher premiums to the oldest.

Second, it would cut Pell grants for needy college students. How exactly does kicking kids out of college help this country become more competitive? Without the federal commitment to student financial aid, Anderson and Kusler point out, there will not be enough educated, skilled Americans to sustain economic recovery, or to secure our nation’s future for the next generation.

Third, it would extend the District of Columbia voucher program – at a cost of more than $300 million. “It is simply wrong to funnel millions of taxpayer dollars to private schools while cutting programs that help millions of students in public schools,” said Anderson and Kustler. “Pulling 1,200 children out of a system that serves 65,000 doesn’t solve problems – it ignores them.”

NEA takes the nation’s fiscal challenges seriously, but it is working with lawmakers to find long-term solutions, based on proven educational research. Consider this: A high school dropout earns about $260,000 less over a lifetime than a high school graduate and pays about $60,000 less in taxes.  America loses $192 billion—1.6% of our GDP—in combined income and tax revenue with each cohort of 18-year-olds who never complete high school.

NEA urges House lawmakers to consider an amendment by U.S. Rep. Mike Honda, of California, that would maintain funding for Head Start, elementary and secondary education, and do so by cutting tax breaks for wealthy corporations and closing tax loopholes for companies that choose to do business overseas.

“Our nation’s economic strength and future success depend on our ability to innovate, educate, and compete in the global marketplace,” Anderson and Kusler wrote. “Failing to invest when investment is called for is a plan for permanent austerity, not long-term success.”

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For more information on funding issues, visit Education Funding on NEA.org