At the proverbial 11th hour, Congress and the Administration held our nation back from falling over the fiscal cliff by passing the American Taxpayer Relief Act of 2012. The problem for education, and most other nondiscretionary spending portions of the federal budget, is that these programs are still subject to the pending sequester cuts. Instead of dealing with those indiscriminate, across the board cuts now, Congress and the President merely delayed them for 2 months.
In general, the American Taxpayer Relief Act of 2012 will raise tax rates for individuals making income above $400,000 per year or families making more than $450,000 per year. For everyone else, income taxes will remain the same. But, most people (those who receive W-2’s) will see their taxes rise by 2% because the bill does not extend the payroll tax holiday. It also failed to address the debt ceiling and failed to include any spending cuts.
A few good things specifically for educators: The Act extends a deduction that elementary and secondary school teachers and other school professionals can take for up to $250.00 related to materials they purchase and use in classrooms. Likewise, it extends the Qualified Zone Academic Bond (QZAB) program, which provides needed funding for rebuilding and modernizing qualified schools and colleges throughout the nation.
But the problem with the deal – it delays sequester instead of eliminating it. So, at this point, the U.S. Dept. of Education still stands to lose over $4 billion dollars, beginning in March, 2013. IDEA and Title I still stand to lose over $1 billion dollars as a part of that. And the cuts don’t stop there – they actually will apply to lots of programs that help children and families. In sum, there is no escaping sequester unless Congress and the President can agree to a balanced fiscal plan. If not, cuts will be felt by every school in the nation and will harm educators’ ability to serve all students.
Are you concerned about this? Then tell your members of Congress by sending them an email using CEC’s Legislative Action Center. All you need to know is your zipcode - Click here and use our letter, or write your own!
Finally, it is important to realize that budget decisions are never permanent. Congress and the Administration can change these laws by passing other laws. Now is the time to come together and tell them – the American Taxpayer Relief Act of 2012 is just the first step. Pass a balanced deficit reduction plan that invests in education and eliminates the sequester!