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Fiscal Package: A Source of Hope and Concern for America’s Students

The United States House of Representatives last night followed the Senate in avoiding the so-called fiscal cliff by passing the Tax Relief Extension Act. The plan is designed to block tax hikes and delay spending cuts associated with the fiscal cliff.

The final vote was 257-167, with all of Connecticut’s Congressional delegation voting in favor, except Rep. Rosa DeLauro, who issued a statement saying the two month delay will put the middle class at risk again.

NEA President Dennis Van Roekel says this is a big step toward addressing issues facing the middle class, but he is concerned about where the country will be in two months when Congress begins debating budget cuts and the nation’s debt ceiling.

While tonight’s House vote represents a major step toward addressing the needs of working Americans and our national economy, we still fear where this path may lead us in two months. In February, Congress will once again battle over across-the-board sequester budget cuts at the same time it will once again debate the nation’s debt ceiling.

We are pleased that the Republican leadership in the House abandoned their efforts to simply draw lines in the sand to protect benefits for the wealthiest few. We applaud those members of Congress, from both parties, who stood up for what’s right for our nation’s students and all middle class families by putting people ahead of politics.

The package, while not ideal, begins to address the demands of average Americans for a plan that provides real tax relief for middle class families and protects those struggling to find work. Its historic first steps in balancing the scales of revenue generation between the rich and middle class is critical to ensuring tax fairness and putting our economy on a path toward growth and balance.  And as the cost of living continues to rise, far too many workers, including educators, still find themselves unemployed and we cannot ask those in the greatest need to bear the greatest burdens in this economy.

Because working Americans are carrying a heavy burden in our current economy, we are disappointed that the proposal ‘kicks the can’ on sequestration and leaves the threat of devastating cuts to essential federal funding hanging over the nation’s children and families. By delaying action for two months, Congress has pushed our national economy toward yet another cliff and continues to hold the fate of middle class Americans hostage to politics.   Critical services in education, health and other key areas have already seen a cut of more than $1.5 billion, a slash that our communities could not afford in the first place.       .

Additional deep, arbitrary cuts to discretionary programs will be devastating to the programs and services that ordinary Americans depend on and inflict tremendous, irreversible harm on our nation’s 50 million students, particularly those with the greatest needs. Across-the-board cuts will mean fewer educators in our schools, students crammed into already overcrowded classrooms, shorter school weeks, 4-year-olds cheated out of early childhood education, and dreams dashed for aspiring college students.

While we applaud the progress that has been made, we strongly encourage Congress to finish the job and protect Americans from across the board cuts facing the nation in February.

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