Today, the House of Representatives passed HR 1586 with a $26 billion state aid amendment that funds teacher jobs and state Medicaid spending. The legislation, which passed the Senate by a vote of 61-38 on August 8, spends $10 billion on saving an estimated 140,000 K-12 education jobs. Additionally, states will only receive said funding if they maintain higher education spending levels from fiscal year 2009. Particularly cash-strapped states will be allowed to maintain spending levels from fiscal year 2006.
With over 30 states set to impose cuts to their higher education budgets this fiscal year, stabilizing college spending is a great step forward in strengthening governmental investments in students. However, with rising tuition, average student debt levels, and inflation, funding levels from fiscal year 2009, not adjusted to reflect today’s cost-of-living, is still inadequate. Additionally, the funding for education and Medicare is paid for in part by $12 billion in cuts to the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, commonly known as the Food Stamps program. 40.8 million low-income people receive food stamps, according to the Agriculture Department.
“While we applaud Congress for taking the necessary action in saving thousands of education jobs and stabilizing state college spending, we are very concerned about the deep cuts to the Food Stamps program,” said USSA President Lindsay McCluskey. “We have spent over $1 trillion in military operations since 9/11, I hope in the future Congress has the political will to use a fraction of that money to both feed and educate people.”
Today's vote demonstrates that the work of the student movement is necessary to advance long-term policy goals that strengthen all communities, not pit one against the other in a zero-sum fight for federal funding. We will continue to advocate for higher education spending that is responsible and that reflects our vision of a just society.