AFT President Randi Weingarten issued the following statement on the final passage of H.R. 1865, the fiscal year 2020 appropriations bill, which includes significant increases for the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act and Title I, community schools, Pell Grant awards and the Special Olympics. The funding bill also includes the full repeal of the excise tax on certain healthcare plans, and language aimed at forcing the Education Department to hold federal student loan servicers accountable for misleading and exploiting tens of thousands of borrowers:
“In December 2017, Congress was handing out tax cuts to the wealthy at the expense of our country’s healthcare, public education and infrastructure. In December 2018, the president in a fit of pique closed the government for five weeks starting at Christmas. These were two years in which working families’ dreams and aspirations came last.
“This appropriations bill is a sea change from the last two years. Communities, working families and students are the priority, with a $1.3 billion increase in investments for classrooms and wraparound services that focus on educating the whole child—like Title I, IDEA, community colleges, community schools and Pell Grants. This is in sharp contrast to the $7 billion in cuts proposed by Education Secretary Betsy DeVos. Particularly, the $400 million increase to IDEA and the $450 million increase to Title I are a down payment on Congress’ promise to fully fund supports for learners with special needs as well as students in low-income communities.
“For the first time in a generation, this spending package commits vital resources to gun violence research that will enable studying the causes of an epidemic that is plaguing our neighborhoods—and developing solutions. It makes a promise to protect access to quality healthcare by permanently repealing the Affordable Care Act’s 40 percent excise tax on high-quality healthcare plans. This repeal will help workers and their families afford the healthcare they have worked for, negotiated and earned; and it helps prevent the Trump administration from its continued sabotage of the Affordable Care Act—sabotage that continues as the GOP’s judicial assaults jeopardize the protection the ACA provides for people with pre-existing conditions.
“Finally, the package secures pensions previously earned for more than 100,000 coal miners and their families—pensions that would have been eviscerated as a result of mine companies’ bankruptcies. This is a difference between life and poverty for these retired miners.
“Elections matter, and this spending bill reflects that. No bill is perfect, but this one does achieve crucial victories for all Americans who are working hard toward a better life and better future for their families. We thank everyone on both sides of the aisle, but particularly House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, Senate Leader Chuck Schumer, Sen. Patty Murray, and Reps. Rosa DeLauro and Nita Lowey for their leadership on this bill.”