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Cantwell, Obama Fight to Expand Access to Quality Education

Location: Seattle, WA

Cantwell, Obama Fight to Expand Access to Quality Education

At Seattle's Garfield High School, Senators Tout Work to Halt President's Deep Education Cuts, Enhance Future of America's Youth

Saturday, at Garfield High School in Seattle, Senators Maria Cantwell (D-WA) and Barack Obama (D-IL) called on Congress to fully fund the many education programs cut in the president's budget proposal. Last week, Cantwell and others secured an amendment in the Senate Budget Resolution for Fiscal Year 2007 partially undoing the cuts.

"The president wants to gut dozens of programs with a proven record of success in helping disadvantaged students finish high school and enroll in college," said Cantwell. "Cuts to the TRIO and GEAR UP programs alone would strip $6 million in vital education funds from Washington state, cutting off aid to more than 5,000 Washington students. When one third of the president's proposed cuts come from education, we have a serious problem of misplaced priorities. This is the wrong policy for America. Senator Obama and I have fought to reverse these cuts, and we will continue fighting to give America's future leaders the support they need to excel."

The president's budget proposal for Fiscal Year 2007 cuts TRIO and GEAR UP funding by nearly $500 million for the second year in a row—a funding decrease of almost 50 percent affecting 5,100 students across Washington state. Through academic counseling and college preparatory services, both programs increase disadvantaged students' chances of completing high school and enrolling in higher education. Over 500,000 students nationwide, including 40,000 in Washington state, benefit from TRIO and GEAR UP. In addition to cutting over three dozen other education programs, comprising one third of the president's total budget cuts, the administration's proposal freezes the maximum Pell Grant award at $4,050 for the fourth year in a row, even though tuition costs continue to skyrocket.

"Too many American students are growing up without the resources, support, high standards, and basic achievement demands they deserve," said Cantwell. "As the first person in my family to graduate from college—with the help of federal student aid—I understand just how important these programs are. If we want our economy to grow and our youth to achieve their full potential, we need a change of course."

To deliver much-needed support to America's students, Cantwell has worked tirelessly with Obama and others to fix many of the president's cuts. Last Thursday, on a 73-27 vote, the Senate approved an additional $7 billion for education and health programs—an important step toward restoring full funding for TRIO, GEAR UP, and other vital initiatives. In a letter sent Saturday to Republican leaders in the House, Cantwell and Obama called on the House of Representatives to follow suit and implement the funding restored by the Senate

Representatives from three Seattle organizations—Seattle Scores, Friends of Children, and Making Connections—joined Cantwell and Obama Saturday to highlight the importance of federal education initiatives. Seattle SCORES works with disadvantaged youth to promote literacy thorough sports; Friends of the Children works with vulnerable youth from kindergarten through twelfth grade, making a 13-year commitment to high-risk kindergarteners; and the University of Washington Women's Center Making Connections Program helps provide disadvantaged students from urban high schools with the strategies and skills needed to succeed in high school and prepare for higher education.

[The text of Cantwell and Obama's letter to Republican Leadership follows below]

March 18, 2006

Chairman Jim Nussle

U.S. House Budget Committee

Cannon House Office Building, Room 309

Washington, DC 20515

Dear Chairman Nussle,

A good education is the prerequisite for success in a quickly changing global economy. Significant investment in education and lifelong learning is the only way to achieve long-term prosperity for America. The need to increase our investment in education has never been greater

Regrettably, the President's budget proposal for fiscal year 2007 funds education and health programs at $7 billion less than the level of funding two years ago. In particular, the President's budget eliminates 42 education programs, including GEAR UP, Safe and Drug-Free Schools and Communities State Grants, TRIO Talent Search and Upward Bound, all the vocational and technical education programs and Educational Technology State Grants. The President's budget also freezes the maximum Pell Grant award at $4,050, for the fifth year in a row, despite rising tuition costs. These are proven programs that ensure every student has access to opportunities that inspire learning and achieve success. Investments in education benefit children, families, and the nation, and will for decades to come.

As the House of Representatives develops its annual budget resolution for fiscal year 2007, we respectfully request you consider and adopt the Senate-passed amendment to restore funding for critical federal education and health programs. Specifically, the amendment to the budget resolution was approved overwhelmingly by a Senate vote of 73-27 to allow Congress to fund the fiscal year 2007 Labor-HHS bill at the level enacted two years ago, in fiscal year 2005. Funding is provided by increasing the cap on fiscal year 2008 advance appropriations by $7 billion.

Education has become increasingly important to our future economic and national security. We need to invest the necessary resources, use the best technology, and implement a comprehensive, accountable strategy that reaches K-12, higher education, and lifelong learning. The President's proposed cuts to education jeopardize the quality learning that our children deserve. The Senate has shown its commitment to America's schools and communities by voting overwhelmingly in favor of restoring funding for key education and health initiatives. We seek the same bold leadership from the House of Representatives. Thank you for your consideration of this request. We look forward to continuing to work with you in support of American education.


Senator Maria Cantwell

Senator Barack Obama

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