Saturday, November 6, 2010

What the Election Results Mean for Public Education

The 2010 elections featured 37 Governors races, 37 U.S. Senate contests, 435 U.S. House races, dozens of ballot measures and initiatives, 6,118 state legislative seats in 46 states and myriad local elections across the country. As of this writing, Republicans have picked up at least 60 seats in the House. Republicans also picked up significant seats in the U.S. Senate, but Democrats still have enough seats to control the chamber. There are several races too close to call/likely recounts in both the House and Senate, thus, the ultimate makeup of the 112th Congress will not be known for several more weeks.
In the states, the GOP won 21 of the 37 Governors races. There are still five races too close to call. At the state legislative level, Republicans picked up control in at least 19 chambers and as many as four others where votes are still being counted before chamber control will be determined.

The congressional election results will impact education-related issues. In the House, the change in Party leadership means that new Chairs will step into leadership roles on key Committees, with different priorities and policies on education than the previous leadership. In the Senate, while Democrats will retain Committee control, tighter vote margins will impact the ability to pass legislation.

On education specifically, Congress will have to tackle two main issues—revising No Child Left Behind and setting spending priorities for critical programs and services affecting students and working families, programs such as early childhood education, Head Start, college loans for deserving students, and many others. Students woke up Wednesday morning still deserving the best our nation can offer them. Regardless of the outcome of the elections, every student still needs a great public school to fulfill his or her greatest dreams. NEA stands ready to work with the new Congress to put students first and ensure that education is the engine that moves America forward.

Education policy/ESEA Reauthorization:

The new Speaker of the House is expected to be Representative John Boehner (R-OH) and Representative John Kline (R-MN) is expected to serve as the Chair of the House Education and Labor Committee. Under their leadership, Republicans are likely to be more focused on local control of school systems and local decision making. This week, Representative Kline outlined broad-based priorities for education and employment policy, including “pursuing education reform that restores local control, empowers parents, lets teachers teach, and protects taxpayers.” Representative Kline has also been a supporter of full funding for special education. Areas that NEA will be watching closely will include proposals for private school vouchers and increased support for charter schools.

Education Funding:

Representative Paul Ryan (R-WI), a rising star in GOP who has burnished his credentials as a fiscal hawk is likely to serve as Chair of the House Budget Committee, while either Representative Hal Rogers (R-KY) or Representative Jerry Lewis (R-CA), past chairman of the Appropriations Committee, could serve as Appropriations Chair. Republicans are expected to push hard on spending and are likely to propose dramatic cuts to education and other domestic priorities. Already, would-be Speaker of the House John Boehner has proposed cutting all non-defense federal spending to FY2008 levels.

Social Security:

Some Republican candidates for House and Senate promoted privatization of Social Security, cuts to benefits, and raising the retirement age for eligibility. The National Fiscal Commission on Reform and Responsibility (see below) is expected to make recommendations to Congress and the President by December 1 that could include some of these proposals.

Health Care Reform:

While full-on repeal of the Health Care bill is unlikely to be enacted, Republicans have been vocal about defunding portions of the law or stopping full implementation. It seems likely that Republicans will seek some changes to the historical Health Care reform act, particularly any requirements on small businesses and individual mandates.

Reminder: Speak Up Against Social Security Cuts

The National Commission on Fiscal Responsibility and Reform will hold its next meeting on November 10, 2010 – its final public meeting before the December 1st deadline for its recommendations. If the Commission reaches agreement, its plan – which could include deep cuts to Social Security – has been guaranteed a fast track up-or-down vote in Congress in December.

Last week, 136 Members of Congress spoke out against cuts to Social Security, thanks to the hard work of the NEA Board and other activists who garnered signatures on a letter to President Obama.

Social Security has not contributed one dime to the federal deficit – it actually has a surplus of $2.6 trillion today. Social Security belongs to the people who have worked hard and paid taxes to the program. It should not be cut to reduce the deficit.

The retirement age has already been raised from 65 to 66, and it will go to 67 in 2022. Some in Congress want to raise it to 70. That would cut benefits by 20 percent!

Take Action Now:

Submit comments directly to the Commission at Make sure they hear your voice before their next meeting. Tell them that Social Security Social Security is the cornerstone of the social safety net for America’s retired workers and that the program and its benefits must be protected. Urge Commission members to oppose privatization of Social Security and mandatory social security coverage. Tell them how important Social Security is to you. And, ask them to call for repeal of the Government Pension Offset and Windfall Elimination Provision. Share with the Commission your story about how the offsets have impacted you, or will impact you, when you retire.
Tell Congress: No Social Security cuts. No retirement age increase. No risky privatization schemes. Also urge them to repeal the unfair Social Security offsets that threaten the retirement security of far too many educators, police, firefighters, and other public employees.