(WASHINGTON, DC) – U.S. Senator Patty Murray today celebrated the passage of the Harkin-Kennedy-Murray amendment to the budget resolution to increase funding for America's schools. The amendment, which won passage today by a vote of 53-47, invests $250 billion in education over a ten year period.
"There is no more important priority than investing in our children and improving America's schools," Murray said. "This important legislation does both."
The $250 billion is more than five times the investment offered by President Bush, whose budget plan calls for $1.7 trillion tax cuts, offset by dramatic cuts to health care coverage for the uninsured, disaster preparedness, hiring community police officers, energy conservation, medical training at children's hospitals and other priorities.
"I am pleased that four Republicans recognized the inadequacy of Bush's budget and supported this investment in our children's future," Murray said. "I hope that this is an omen of votes to come."
The boost in funding offered by Murray's amendment would provide Head-Start to all eligible 3 and 4 year olds, double Title I funding for disadvantaged students and turn around failing schools, fully fund our commitment to disabled students through IDEA, quadruple our professional investment to improve teacher quality, fully fund our national commitment to hire 100,000 new teachers to reduce classroom overcrowding in the early grades and help more American's afford college by raising the maximum Pell grant by $600.
Excerpts of Senator Murray's floor statement follow.
I've come to the floor to support this amendment today to ensure that all students get the educational resources they deserve. The Republicans claim that they provide a significant increase for education funding. In looking at this budget, I am unable to find that significant increase. Instead, it is clear to me that this budget jeopardizes our ability to maintain critical priorities like education. Under this budget, the actual amount of funds available for schools, colleges, and students will increase by only $2.5 billion (5.9 percent). That is less than half of the average yearly increase Congress has provided in each of the last five years.
At a time when we are and should be demanding more than ever from our schools, we must not slow down the federal investment in our schools. We must not go back on our commitment to help reduce class sizes. We must not do away with support for emergency repairs and renovations. We must not continue to shirk our responsibility to disadvantaged students and to students with disabilities. Setting a high bar is important, but setting a high bar and failing to give kids the resources to succeed is just setting them up for failure.
To justify an irresponsible tax cut, the President keeps talking about an enormous "surplus." But when people from my home state come to see me, they ask an important question: "How there can be a surplus when we still haven't paid our bills on full funding for IDEA, Title I, Impact Aid and 100,000 new teachers?"
I agree with them, and I'm glad that the Harkin/Kennedy/Murray amendment could ensure that we pay those bills. With the projected surplus, our country has the opportunity to make important choices as we begin this new century. Are we going to make the investment in education that all our children deserve? Or are we going to give deep tax cuts to just a few? Are we going to let our children continue to go to school in overcrowded classrooms, in crumbling schools buildings, with the underpaid, inadequately prepared teachers? Or will we rise to the occasion and make the choice to invest in our children's future? We know what the needs are out there. We know what works to help our children succeed. We just need the will of members of Congress to stand up and put the money where their mouths are.
Parents, teachers, students and community leaders are saying: "Don't just talk about the importance of funding education. Make the tough choices to show the American public that education is truly a priority of their elected officials."