Children Paying the Price for Deficit Reduction

Lawmakers at every level of government often say severe budget-cutting measures are necessary so that “our children” aren’t saddled with the national debt. While no one disputes the importance of deficit reduction, it is the nation’s children who have been bearing the brunt of the budget-slashing frenzy that has taken hold in nearly every statehouse and on Capitol Hill.

According to a new report, the majority of states continue to make deep, harmful cuts in programs benefiting children, including public health, early education, child care, K-12, and programs for children’s with special needs. The report, State Budget Cuts: America’s Kids Pay the Price, was released last week by the National Association of Child Care Resource & Referral Agencies (NACCRRA), Every Child Matters Education Fund and Voices for America’s Children.

“Children are our most vulnerable citizens, yet states are cutting critical programs that are needed to ensure their healthy development and well-being,” said NACCRRA Executive Director Linda K. Smith.

“States are cutting Medicaid, shifting to a four-day school week, kicking poor kids out of a program to help them buy clothes, and more,” Laura Clawson wrote on DailyKos, commenting on the report. “Just about any program out there that was intended to educate or protect kids or to help families feed or care for their children is being slashed.”

Federal funding from President Obama’s American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (ARRA) and last year’s Education Jobs bill will run out this year. The federal government needs to do more, but the so-called Budget Super Committee created by Congress in August may make matters worse. Despite the success of ARRA, lawmakers are now intent on imposing deep spending cuts to critical programs without asking the nation’s wealthiest individuals and corporations to pay their fair share.

With the Super Committee’s recommendations due on November 23rd, the National Education Association is urging lawmakers to make children a top priority by protecting funding for crucial education and health programs and promoting basic tax fairness.

“It’s time to put the families on Main Street ahead of the special interests of Wall Street and make billionaires and big corporations pay their fair share,” said NEA President Dennis Van Roekel. “Legislators need to stop looking to children, working families, and seniors to sacrifice without asking anything in return from the wealthiest, who continue to get wealthier due to continued tax loopholes and cuts.”

Promoting tax fairness is a key recommendation of the NACCRRA report. It specifically calls for ending tax breaks for oil and gas companies and hedge fund billionaires, and a more progressive tax rate whereby the wealthiest citizens pay taxes at the same rate as the rest of the country. A recent analysis by the Congressional Research Service, for example, found that a quarter of millionaires in the United States pay a smaller share of their income in federal taxes than many middle-class families.

In a October 26 statement submitted to the Super Committee, NEA warned “if revenue increases are not included, deficit reductions will have to come from spending cuts alone, decimating education and other priorities, restricting the federal government’s ability to respond to economic downturns, limiting economic opportunity, and increasing the likelihood that the fragile recovery will falter.”

Take Action: Tell Congress that the Super Committee must protect Americans with the greatest needs

Read the full report: State Budget Cuts: America’s Kids Pay the Price