Dems warn of ‘devastating’ education cuts in GOP budget

House Democrats launched an attack on Republicans for cutting education spending Friday even before a GOP spending measure was released.

Democrats are accusing Republicans of threatening America's competitiveness with a plan they expect will cut billions of dollars in federal spending on education this year.

Democrats charged that the cuts would have “a devastating effect” on teachers, students and the nation's ability to compete in an ever globalizing world.

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“An uneducated workforce is a non-competitive workforce,” Rep. Robert Andrews (D-N.J.) told reporters Friday in the Capitol. “America won't grow if Americans don't learn. And Americans won't learn with 30 percent cuts in education across this country.

Rep. Tim Bishop (D-N.Y.) piled on the criticism as well, noting that the U.S. has slipped from first to sixth in the world in its percentage of high school graduates attending college, and from first to 12th in the percentage of people holding college degrees. 

“Those two numbers do not bode well at all for our future,” Bishop said.

It’s unclear how much the Republican plan will cut education spending, though federal funds are clearly being targeted.

A partial list of proposed cuts released Thursday doesn't name any programs directly under the Education Department, but does slash several programs that could directly affect the education system.

For instance, the initial proposal cut $1.1 billion from the Office of Science, a branch of the Department of Energy that funds scientific research. It also eliminated the Americorps program, a Clinton-era public service initiative that's placed thousands of teachers in underserved schools.

Rep. Mike Simpson (R-Idaho), who chairs a House Appropriations subcommittee on the environment, noted Friday that the initial proposal eliminated about 60 federal programs, and the latest version will surpass that.

Republicans won control of the House last November largely on a message that government spending is out of control and needs reining in. They are trying to find deeper cuts in the budget after conservative members of their caucus rejected a proposal to cut current spending by $32 billion.

The GOP cuts — and the sharp Democratic response to them — foreshadows a looming battle between House Republicans and Democratic leaders in the Senate and White House. GOP leaders will likely have little problem moving their proposal through the House, while Democratic leaders are confident they can block it in the Senate. 

"Today is not the day for us to figure out who's going to blink," Rep. Tim Scott (R-S.C.) said Friday of the coming standoff.

Meanwhile, some teachers are urging Congress to reconsider any further cuts in education funding. Shelly Moore, a 13-year veteran of Ellsworth High School in Wisconsin, told reporters Friday that her situation should be a cautionary tale. The only advanced placement teacher at the school, Moore was told recently that she will be laid off in June. 

“The impact of these cuts is real,” Moore said. “What costs more – paying to educate our children or not?”