So we haven’t fallen off the cliff, yet

Sorry it’s taken so long to weigh in on the fiscal cliff. I was too busy finding out how much my asparagus tax credit would be.

Seriously though, it was tough to find out specifics about what most NYSUT members are interested in, namely how the federal legislation would affect funding for education and student loans. While it’s nice to know that the middle-class tax cuts were permanently extended, reading statements like NEA President Dennis Van Roekel’s just left me with more questions than answers.

Tax cuts don’t help pay for services that are still on the chopping block. They don’t help those unemployed teachers, or those who are likely to face layoff notices. Further, since the payroll tax cut was not extended, families are going to see smaller paychecks.

Thanks to the American Federation of Teachers, here are the sobering details of what we’re still facing because this deal did not address the sequester:

  • 100,000 children are still at risk of losing Head Start programs, and 20,000 Head Start employees could be forced to leave their jobs.
  • 500,000 students with special needs are still at risk of losing programs, and 12,000 special education teachers and paraprofessionals could lose their jobs.
  • Title I grants to 4,000 schools could still end, affecting nearly 2 million students.
  • More than 16,000 teachers and paraprofessionals could still lose their jobs.
  • 80,000 children from low-income working families could lose their child care.
  • Up to 1 million patients could lose services provided by community health centers.
  • Nutrition programs for women, infants and children could lose $543 million.
  • In health care, 659,476 fewer people could be tested for HIV; 48,845 fewer women could be screened for cancer; and 211,958 fewer children could be vaccinated.
  • At a time when the unemployment rate is still above 8 percent, 1.6 million fewer adults, dislocated workers and at-risk youth could receive job training, education and employment services.
  • It’s still estimated that 496,000 health care and related jobs could be lost within a year, and as many as 766,000 jobs could be lost by 2021.
  • Federal college access programs, such as TRIO and GEAR UP, could also see an 8.2 percent cut. And the 1 percent origination fee for unsubsidized Stafford student loans could be raised by 7.6 percent, to about 1.1 percent of a total loan. These cuts would have the greatest impact on lower-income and at-risk students.

Now, House Republicans are vowing to cut key programs as leverage for an agreement on raising the debt limit next month. If they get their way, the cuts listed above will go through.  Go to the NYSUT Member Action Center — the MAC — to send a message to your House representative or senator. Let Congress know that, even though the “cliff” was avoided, we need the 113th Congress to do the right thing.

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