In the midst of reauthorizing the No Child Left Behind (NCLB) Act, lawmakers received a bold reminder earlier this week from education advocates: Don’t forget the funding!
The Committee for Education Funding (CEF), a large nonpartisan coalition of over 100 education groups (including NASSP), held its annual legislative conference and gala on September 20, at which it rallied its members for a lobby day on Capitol Hill and presented awards to members of Congress who have shown a dedication to increased education funding.
Speaking at the conference, Rep. Lucille Roybal-Allard (D-CA) said that “under the new [congressional] leadership, and with the help of CEF, we have the ability to reverse the trend in cutting essential federal education programs.”
Not all of the speakers were quite so optimistic however. Rep. Michael Castle (R-DE), said that just because Congress allows for increased funding in NCLB doesn’t necessarily mean more money will get to the schools. Still, he said, “we have to make people in this country understand the importance of education to their future.”
Senator Jack Reed (D-RI) put it this way, “the engine of this country is opportunity, and the engine of opportunity is education,” thus if we don’t significantly invest in education from kindergarten through college, America can’t remain internationally competitive.
Also addressing the CEF conference, Sen. Tom Harkin (D-IA) implored those present to spread the word and put pressure on Congress to increase funding for education. “Everyone’s talking about the war [in Iraq]; that’s all they’re talking about. Well, I think we should talk about something else,” we should be talking about education.
The last to address the conference was Rep. David Obey (D-WI), chairman of the House Appropriations Committee. Echoing Harkin’s call to action, Obey said that “people generally do not understand how serious things are in this bill… [We] will be very lucky to get even one dime more than what’s in the president’s budget” unless a significant push on the House and Senate Labor-HHS-Education bills is made.
With that, CEF set its members loose on Capitol Hill to meet with lawmakers and their staff to remind them how essential education funding is to increased student success and increased U.S. international competitiveness.
The Current State of Things
- The House of Representatives passed its version of the Labor-HHS-Education appropriations bill
- The Senate passed its bill out of committee but has yet to vote on it
- While there are differences between the bills, both contain significant increases for education and exceed the presidents’ budget request
- President Bush has promised to veto any bill that exceeds his budget request
NASSP in conjunction with CEF is working hard to shore-up lawmakers’ support for the highest increases in education funding, and to override the president’s veto if necessary.