Washington—Statement of American Federation of Teachers President Randi Weingarten on the agreement to avert the "fiscal cliff."
"This agreement, while imperfect, provides critical and immediate relief to millions of families who were facing substantial tax increases, and it ensures that Americans still struggling to find work will continue to receive the unemployment benefits they need to support themselves and their families. It also brings in needed revenue by asking the wealthiest Americans to pay more to strengthen and grow our economy. Speaker John Boehner should immediately schedule a vote so the House can act now on the agreement passed by the Senate with an overwhelmingly bipartisan vote of 89-8.
"As important as this relief is right now to the majority of Americans, this is a temporary, Band-Aid solution. Kicking the can down the road for two months means that we still face the possibility of staggering and debilitating cuts to public schools, healthcare and services that our kids and families count on. Failure to avert these across-the-board cuts will cripple public services in communities across the nation, many of which are already barely recovering from the recent recession and state and local budget cuts; will make it harder for parents to afford child care and for students to afford college; will leave thousands of children hungry; and could plunge our economy back into recession.
"Overall, we join the great majority of Americans concerned with a legislative process that has turned toxic and corrosive; it's no way to govern a great nation and it undermines our democracy. When politics and ideology trump governing, the American people are the ones who pay the price. No more Band-Aids, no more temporary fixes—Congress must act immediately to prevent these across-the-board cuts and focus on strengthening, not undercutting, our economy."
Read AFT's letter to Congress on the agreement and the danger of across-the-board cuts.
Potential impact of across-the-board cuts:
- 100,000 children could no longer participate in Head Start, and 20,000 Head Start employees could be forced to leave their jobs.
- 500,000 students with special needs could be harmed by this cut, and 12,000 special education teachers and paraprofessionals could lose their jobs.
- Title I grants to 4,000 schools could end, affecting nearly 2 million students.16,000 teachers and paraprofessionals could lose their jobs.
- 80,000 children from low-income working families could lose their child care.
- Up to 1 million patients could lose services provided by community health centers.
- Nutrition programs for women, infants and children could lose $543 million.
- In healthcare, 659,476 fewer people could be tested for HIV; 48,845 fewer women could be screened for cancer; and 211,958 fewer children could be vaccinated.
- At a time when the unemployment rate is still above 8 percent, 1.6 million fewer adults, dislocated workers and at-risk youth could receive job training, education and employment services.
- An estimated 496,000 healthcare and related jobs could be lost within the first year, and as many as 766,000 jobs could be lost by 2021.
- Federal college access programs, such as TRIO and GEAR UP, could also see an 8.2 percent cut. And the 1 percent origination fee for unsubsidized Stafford student loans could be raised by 7.6 percent, to about 1.1 percent of a total loan. These cuts would have the greatest impact on lower-income and at-risk students.