Wednesday, September 16, 2015

Tell U.S. Congress to Support Stronger Federal Education Funding for Students With Disabilities

The U.S. Congress has not passed a single funding bill for Fiscal Year (FY) 2016 which begins October 1, 2015. The Congress has not acted, in part, because the discretionary caps established in 2011 under The Budget Control Act are extremely low and do not provide adequate funding for important health, education, research, and human services programs. Additionally, Republicans and Democrats do not agree on where to provide increases and where to stay the course. 

 Important programs impacting children with disabilities include health, education (e.g. Title of ESEA, IDEA) and other disability programs that help people stay or become independent and self-sufficient. If Congress does not act to raise these caps, these programs may face devastating cuts due to sequestration. After a closed-door meeting last Wednesday, House Republicans have concluded that they are not ready to make a decision about what to do come September 30th – the last day of the government’s fiscal year.

This week, they are conducting listening sessions with Members, and the House Freedom Caucus (which is comprised of 42 Members) has publicly stated that they will oppose any Continuing Resolution (CR) that includes funding for Planned Parenthood. Remember with a CR: 1) They are just stop-gap measures and sequestration requirements still apply due to the Budget Control Act. Negotiations will still need to be made down the road, depending how far they kick the can; 2) They don’t include policy riders, funding or program cuts or increases; therefore, no program really wins (except the programs that were on the budget chopping block, such as i3.) IDEA and Title I, for example, due to The Budget Control Act, will receive a required cut even under a CR. 

Due to timing, the House must pass something this week in order for a CR to pass through the Senate before the September 30 deadline. The clock is ticking and President Obama has said publicly that he will not support a long-term CR that locks in sequester levels. Please help us put pressure on our elected officials to do something about this!  

We want our leaders to raise the discretionary caps and prevent impending sequestration cuts.  Any deficit reduction plan should be more balanced and take into account revenues, not just spending cuts. 

TAKE ACTION: Call 202-224-3121 and ask for your Senators and Representatives to lift sequestration caps and pass funding bills that provide adequate funding for research, education, employment and training, and other programs that support people with disabilities and other vulnerable populations. 

Help us encourage Congress to act quickly and responsibly.   Here are some talking points you can use:
  • In the last 5 years, critical services and supports have been cut significantly.  If Congress doesn’t act before October 1st, the full effects of sequestration will return, and America’s children and their families will pay the price. For example: Federal funding for Title I of ESEA—the major federal assistance program for high-poverty schools—is down 12% since 2010, after adjusting for inflation, and funding for education for students with disabilities is down 11%.
  • Sequestration resulted in approximately $579 million in federal funding cuts to IDEA special education services for children ages 3 to 21. 
  • After sequestration, Congress is only meeting 14% of the extra cost for educating those in special education, the lowest level since 2001. 
  • When PL 94-142 was passed in 1975, Congress committed to covering 40%.
  • Sequestration could de-fund preschool programs in 18 states, causing 60,000 children to lose access to preschool entirely.
These are just a few examples and it is likely you have your own local story to share regarding the impact of such cuts.  Thank you for supporting a stronger funding agenda for students with disabilities.

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