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Teachers look to Congress to avert program cuts that threaten families

Tax issues just one phase of fiscal crisis

The Ohio Federation of Teachers applauds Congress for preventing large tax increases on the vast majority of Americans and postponing damaging funding cuts to critical programs such as human services and education. The bill passed Jan. 1, however, leaves several critical fiscal issues that threaten debilitating cuts to public schools, healthcare and services that children and families count on. Failure to avert these across-the-board cuts will cripple public services in communities across the nation.

The agreement to avert the "fiscal cliff," while imperfect, provides critical and immediate relief to millions of families who were facing substantial tax increases, and it ensures that Americans still struggling to find work will continue to receive the unemployment benefits they need to support themselves and their families.

It also brings in needed revenue by asking the wealthiest Americans to pay more to strengthen and grow our economy, a campaign promise kept by President Obama. Both the House and Senate passed the bill with overwhelmingly bipartisan support.

"We are pleased that a majority of Congress voted to support working families by halting tax increases for the vast majority of Americans, and that President Obama kept his campaign promise to ask the wealthiest Americans to pay their fair share," said OFT President Melissa Cropper. "We hope that Congress will continue to do what's right for America by avoiding damaging program cuts that will harm our families and communities by reaching a resolution before facing the next critical deadline."

Passage of the bill Jan. 1 leaves several critical fiscal issues to deal with in the near future with the possibility of staggering and debilitating cuts to public schools, healthcare and services that children and families count on. Failure to avert these across-the-board cuts will cripple public services in communities across the nation, many of which are already barely recovering from the recent recession and state and local budget cuts; will make it harder for parents to afford child care and for students to afford college; will leave thousands of children hungry; and could plunge our economy back into recession.

Potential impact of across-the-board cuts include:

·         100,000 children could no longer participate in Head Start, and 20,000 Head Start employees could be forced to leave their jobs.

·         500,000 students with special needs could be harmed by this cut, and 12,000 special education teachers and paraprofessionals could lose their jobs.

·         Title I grants to 4,000 schools could end, affecting nearly 2 million students.

·         16,000 teachers and paraprofessionals could 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 healthcare, 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.

·         An estimated 496,000 healthcare and related jobs could be lost within the first 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.