AFSA Attends Labor, Heath and Human Services, and Education Meeting

On November 7, 2013, AFSA attended a meeting of Labor, Health and Human Services, and Education stakeholders. The meeting was called by Senator Tom Harkin (D-IA), Chairman of the Senate Appropriations Sub-Committee on Labor, HHS, and Education, and generated so much interest that it was standing room only.

Harkin1Senator Harkin thanked everyone in attendance for “advocating for people who do not have voices.” The Senator discussed the Budget Conference committee, which is currently deliberating over the possibility of replacing the ill-advised policy of sequestration.

While there is broad agreement that sequestration is bad fiscal policy, there is stark debate over what will take its place. That is where Senator Harkin said the battle over the next 3 weeks lies.

The Senate and House Budgets for Fiscal Year 2014 vary widely. The Senate’s request is $1.058 trillion versus the House request of $967 billion. The members of the Budget Conference Committee will be working with these two numbers and the outcome will set the stage for funding education programs next year and beyond.

“We need the necessary revenues to meet our national needs,” stated Senator Harkin. If advocates are unable to articulate the harmful impact of sequestration, and successfully make the case for a higher budget number, then tens of thousands of children will lose Head Start spots, educators will be laid off, research will be limited severely and low-income children will suffer.

Prior to the November 7 meeting, AFSA President Diann Woodard sent a letter to the members of the Budget Conference Committee stating, “The torrent of education cuts over the past few years have sent us back nearly a decade to pre-2004 funding levels, while at the same time schools are currently serving nearly 6 million more students. Schools across your district, and the nation, have already been subject to unprecedented funding cuts this year due to sequestration, which has slashed $2.4 billion from education programs and an additional $401 million from Head Start. Schools are also seeing a troubling rise in student hunger due to simultaneous cuts to their parents’ food subsidies. In one reported case, a principal “violated” policy allowing hungry parents to join students in eating from the school’s meal program.”

AFSA thanks Senator Harkin for his outstanding leadership on this issue, and will continue advocating for the repeal of sequestration, and a balanced approach to deficit reduction.