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Fiscal Cliff: How Are Advocates Fighting the Education Cuts?

If you happen to be an education advocate, you are probably having trouble finding time to do your Christmas shopping, because of all the time you're spending organizing call-ins, visiting the Hill, signing onto coalition letters, and waiting for the next proposals from House Speaker John Boehner and the Obama administration.

Organizations around Washington are taking different tacks in trying to persuade lawmakers to spare K-12 from a possible 8.2 percent across-the-board cut come January—most school districts wouldn't feel the impact until next school year. (Everything you ever wanted to know about those cuts and more here.)

The National Education Association, along with the American Federation of State, County, and Municipal Employees and the Service Employees International Union, have put out a series of television ads targeting lawmakers in key districts, including some moderate Democrats. In fact, just this morning the union announced that it's going to air television ads targeting Sens. Mark Warner, D-Va., and Claire McCaskill, D-Mo.

They're also targeting Rep. Pat Tiberi, R-Ohio, and Rep. Denny Rehberg, R-Mont. Rehberg oversees the House panel that deals with K-12, but he won't be back in Congress next year—he ran for the Senate against Sen. Jon Tester, a Democrat, and lost. That could conceivably free him up to support some sort of compromise that spares education spending. (Rehberg is a big fan of Head Start, an early-childhood program for low-income kids.) The ads urge the lawmakers to spare Medicaid, Medicare, and education. You can check them out here.

This isn't NEA's first ad buy. Before Thanksgiving, the union announced that it was running television ads targeting McCaskill and Warner, plus Michael Bennet and Mark Udall, both of Colorado. The unions are also planning a big national "day of action" on Dec. 10.

And the NEA is far from the only group weighing in on the fiscal cliff. The National School Boards Association has collected more than 360 local resolutions urging lawmakers to stop sequestration and presented them to Sen. Patty Murray, D-Wash., who is in line to chair the Senate budget committee.

The American Association of School Administrators put out this analysis to help districts figure out how much they stand to lose under the cuts.

And organizations including AASA and the National Parent Teacher Association gave members an "invoice" to distribute to lawmakers, so they can show exactly how much the cuts would mean for special education, Head Start, and Title I in their districts. That helps make the cuts "tangible" to lawmakers, said Elizabeth Rorick, the PTA's deputy executive director of government affairs and communications.

The Council for Exceptional Children, an advocacy organization in Arlington, Va., for special education students, is holding a "call-in" day on December 12 (which happens to be 12/12/12) urging advocates to contact members of Congress about the sequestration cuts.

And the Committee for Education Funding, a big umbrella lobbying organization that represents all of these groups, plus way more, visited the White House last week to talk to Obama administration officials about their concerns over the cuts.

Is your organization mobilizing against the cuts? Or going the other direction and prodding Congress to rein in spending? What are you doing and how are you doing it? Share your stories in the comments section, or tweet them to us @politicsk12.

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