February 14, 2011
Statement by Randi Weingarten,
President, American Federation of Teachers,
On President Obama’s Education Budget Proposal
WASHINGTON—We are grateful that President Obama’s education budget reflects a continuing commitment to improving our public schools. A strong economy and a strong public school system are inextricably linked and the president understands that support for education is an investment in our children and the future of our nation.
We are mindful that the modest proposed increase for education is part of an overall budget that freezes most discretionary spending and makes cuts that will be painful for many Americans, at a time when poverty rates are rising and unemployment still remains too high.
Many governors and state legislatures across the nation would do well to reconsider their own budget priorities in light of the president’s education proposal today. In Florida, for example, the governor has called for a 10 percent cut in state support—a move that school superintendents there said will be a disaster and lead to the demise of the state’s public school system. President Obama’s proposal shows that even in a tough economy, our commitment to education is critical.
Even in tight times it is important to see the president push for early childhood education and for maintaining the current maximum for Pell Grants, which help make college affordable for millions of American young people. Yet we must be careful that any proposed changes to student aid will not inhibit some students’ ability to continue their postsecondary education.
We are pleased that the budget proposes a modest increase for IDEA. It also seeks to broaden eligibility for Race to the Top grants by driving resources directly to local school districts instead of states. In these difficult times, when districts are wrestling with the prospect of cutting art, music and vital services for kids, we must be careful to maintain those priorities. Funding determined by competition sometimes allows those districts who can most afford it to have an edge, and that is troubling when all students—particularly disadvantaged children—need help.
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The AFT represents 1.5 million pre-K through 12th-grade teachers; paraprofessionals and other school-related personnel; higher education faculty and professional staff; federal, state and local government employees; nurses and healthcare workers; and early childhood educators.