Economic Recovery Requires Investing in Education: Maintain H.R. 1 at $140 Billion for Education

Media 02.5.09

Recipient: U.S. Senate

Dear Senator:

On behalf of the Leadership Conference on Civil Rights (LCCR), the nation’s oldest, largest, and most diverse civil and human rights coalition, with nearly 200 member organizations, we are writing to urge you to maintain the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act’s (ARRA) funding level at a minimum of $140 billion for education and to include the same crucial education reform, accountability, and fiscal equity protections that the House of Representatives required in its version of the bill.

Much of the debate over the ARRA is over the tension between “shovel ready” projects with immediate economic benefits and those with longer term, transformative value like investing in “green” technology. Education spending, if done well, doesn’t force any such trade off. Shovel ready school construction, the preservation of classroom jobs, and money to equip labs and train teachers can all have both immediate economic impact and profound long term impact on the life – and earning potential – of the students in those schools.

For elementary and secondary education, both the House and Senate versions of the bill are praiseworthy for their substantial and much needed increases in Title I and IDEA funding, at approximately $13 billion each over two years. This funding represents investments in our highest need students, paying the biggest dividends in students’ lives. Both Title I and IDEA are well-established, but perpetually under-funded programs, primed to quickly and efficiently push the funding through the system for the maximum simulative effect. Both bills also include important school improvement funds – $17 billion in the Senate, $15 billion in the House – that will have immediate communitywide economic impact while serving crucial educational goals.

To make college more affordable, and increase the earning power and long term economic health of the nation, both versions of the ARRA include substantial aid for low and moderate income students and their families. The Senate bill provides a much needed $14 billion in student financial aid and an additional $3.5 billion for higher education facilities. The House bill provides for somewhat more, at $17.7 billion and $6 billion, respectively. Almost all of the financial aid would be in the form of Pell Grants, the federal government’s primary and most successful program for making college affordable. In the past, higher unemployment has led to higher college enrollment, but with today’s skyrocketing tuition costs, that won’t be possible without access to Pell Grants for more students.

Finally, it is also essential to maintain the state stabilization fund that is currently at $79 billion in both versions of the ARRA. We strongly support funding at this level, for the same combination of short and long term economic goals described above, but also as a lever to ensure continuing progress toward education reform. Ensuring that federal law maintains strong and unequivocal requirements for education reform and accountability is vital for delivering on the promises of the No Child Left Behind Act (NCLB). To help ensure that the stabilization fund accomplishes these goals, we urge the Senate to revert to the House version of the assurances required in state funding applications by replacing section 1405(d) with its House counterpart found at section 13005(e), which better comports with existing law and the goals of NCLB.

We believe there may be no portion of the ARRA that better combines the short and long term economic goals of Congress and the President than the investment in education. We urge the Senate to maintain the $140 billion dollar funding level and that the funding promotes education reform and fiscal equity. We thank you for considering our views. If you have any questions, please contact David Goldberg, Senior Counsel, at (202)466-0087 or [email protected], regarding this or any issue.

Wade Henderson, President & CEO
Nancy Zirkin, Executive Vice President