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Teachers' Unions Unhappy With Debt Deal; Say Default Is Worse

The nation's two major teachers' unions both voiced reservations about deep cuts to government programs included the congressional agreement to raise the debt ceiling, but said the deal was necessary to avoid the even more negative economic consequences of a default.

National Education Association President Dennis Van Roekel called the debate over the debt ceiling a "reckless game of political brinksmanship," but said a default would have been a catastrophe.

The NEA voiced concerns about whether a bipartisan congressional committee, created through the agreement, would protect funding for student financial aid and other education programs going forward. And Van Roekel suggested in a statement that the deal was tilted in favor of protecting wealthy Americans from tax increases—a view shared by many Democrats—and will result in government services' being slashed at the federal and state levels.

"It's offensive to the cafeteria workers, librarians, and teachers who got pink slips as state budgets dried up," he said, "and it's offensive to the students they served who will soon be piling in to overcrowded classrooms, riding longer bus routes to school, and will find narrowed curriculums when the school bell rings in a few weeks."

The U.S. House of Representatives approved the deal, which has the backing of President Obama, yesterday. The Senate is expected to vote on it today.

The president of the American Federation of Teachers, Randi Weingarten, voiced similiar concerns, predicting that "this deal will have long-term negative consequences to state and city budgets, including school budgets," which have already been hit hard by the recession.

"[W]e are disappointed that it appears our most vulnerable citizens will bear the brunt of this solution," Weingarten said in a statement. "The deal does not create jobs or further invest in our infrastructure or our children."

See my colleague Michele McNeil's recap of the debt-ceiling debate, and education advocates' concerns about the deal, on the Politics K-12 blog.

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