Federal spending bill eases sequestration hits

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The AFT welcomed a new federal spending bill that eases some of the hits that vital domestic programs have taken under sequestration and boosts the national investment in programs targeted to the nation's most vulnerable citizens.

The $1.1 trillion bill funds the government through September and averts the prospect of another shutdown. It sailed through Congress this week, winning huge majorities in both chambers, and President Obama will sign it into law before current funding runs out on Jan. 18.

"The bill helps children and communities across the country that have been hurt badly by sequestration," AFT President Randi Weingarten wrote to Congress prior to the votes. She urged them to back the plan, "which prioritizes investments in proven, cornerstone programs—like Title I and IDEA State Grants—that directly benefit all students by limiting funding of competitive programs that only help a narrow set of children."

Weingarten also hailed investments in the bill for career and technical education, English Language Acquisition State Grants, campus-based aid, and the Full Service Community Schools program. And "the AFT is also pleased that the bill makes early childhood education a priority. The bill fully restores the $401 million sequester cut to Head Start and provides it with a needed inflation increase, includes $500 million for Early Head Start-Child Care Partnerships, and focuses on a new early childhood education initiative."

Not all the harm from the sequester is undone by the spending bill, however. The bill contains insufficient funding to restore a larger portion of the education sequester cuts. As a result, some education programs will receive little or no relief, including Improving Teacher Quality State Grants, School Counseling Grants and IDEA Preschool Grants.

Weingarten says the AFT "stands ready to work with the many members of Congress who want to fully replace the sequester cuts with a plan that requires wealthy corporations and individuals to pay their fair share toward the success of our children and, ultimately, the nation's prosperity. Doing so will help to reclaim the promise of public education and to ensure that every student receives a high-quality education."

[Mike Rose]

Jan. 21, 2014