Federal Legislative Updates
News from Capitol Hill. . .
May 17, 2013
TELL CONGRESS IT IS TIME FOR IMMIGRATION REFORM
On May 9, 2013, the Senate Judiciary Committee began to markup (or review amendments submitted on) S. 744, the Comprehensive Immigration Reform (CIR) bill. In a process that is anticipated to last through the week of May 20, the committee has offered and is voting on amendments to the bill on issues from border security, STEM education and training and an e-verify system. This week included some victories for students and education.
- An amendment which strengthens the STEM education provisions of S. 744 was offered by Senator Hatch (R-UT) and passed this week. The Hatch amendment strengthens the bill’s important STEM provision in key ways. The amendment doubles the funds to be used for STEM Education and training and ensures 70 percent of funds would be proportionately distributed to the states to disseminate directly to school districts, ensuring these dollars will have a broader more equitable reach. NEA believes distributing funds in this way – as opposed to offering competitive grants – is the most equitable way to support and enhance STEM education and training across the country. Click here to read NEA’s letter to the Committee regarding this amendment.
Next week marks the third, and likely final, week of markup when the committee will take up issues related to a pathway to citizenship, including the DREAM Act and the NEA-supported “Little DREAMer” amendment.
- Senator Blumenthal’s (D-CT) “Little Dreamers” amendment ensures that young children are not excluded from the DREAM Act’s expedited pathway to citizenship simply because of their age. Specifically, the amendment would allow children who meet the requirements of the DREAM Act and are under the age of 18 upon completing five years of registered provisional status to be eligible to transition to lawfully permanent resident status and be immediately eligible for citizenship. NEA strongly supports this amendment and is leading the push for its adoption.
TAKE ACTION TODAY!
- E-mail Congress — Tell your Senators and Representative you support Senator Blumenthal’s “Little Dreamers” amendment.
- Sign the petition — Students and their families deserve fair immigration reform now.
URGE CONGRESS TO PREVENT STUDENT LOAN RATES FROM DOUBLING
On Thursday, the House Education and the Workforce Committee acted on the Smarter Solutions for Students Act (H.R. 1911). The bill is the House Republicans’ proposal to address the issue of student loan interest rates, which are scheduled to double on July 1. H.R. 1911 would move student loans to a variable interest rate structure, though it does include a rate cap. NEA praised the Republicans for including a rate cap and at the same time we expressed concern about proposals that seek deficit reduction at the expense of financially struggling college students. The bill passed out of committee by a vote of 24 yeas and 13 nays. NEA took no official position on the bill, however NEA supported an amendment to the bill from Rep. Courtney (D-CT) which would have extended the current rate of 3.4% another two years and an amendment from Rep. Tierney (D-MA) which set interest rates to the same rate the government grants to banks. Both amendments were defeated. The bill now moves to the House floor, likely next week. Similar action to prevent student loan rates from rising is expected in the Senate in the next few weeks.
Like last year, the doubling of student loan rates will be a hot topic on Capitol Hill and in the media. We need your action and support to push NEA’s message to Congress that a college education should be affordable for all who want to attend and they cannot reduce the deficit on the backs of students.
TAKE ACTION TODAY!
- E-mail Congress — Tell your Senators and Representative you prevent student loan rates from doubling and ensure college affordability.
ESEA REAUTHORIZATION APPROACHING
The Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee and House Education and the Workforce Committee are both expected to begin markup on the reauthorization of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA) in the next few weeks. While it is too early to speak to specifics of their proposals, it is critical for educators across the country to speak up and spread our message to Congress on reauthorization.
NEA’s overall message to Congress on ESEA reauthorization has three main components: champion student success, elevate the profession, and fight for social justice. Click here for a one-page summary.
TAKE ACTION TODAY!
- E-mail Congress — Tell your Senators and Representative you support ESEA Reauthorization that champions student success, elevates the profession and fights for social justice.
FURLOUGHS FOR DEPARTMENT OF DEFENSE SCHOOLS
This week, Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel issued a directive stating that educators in Department of Defense run schools face up to 5 furlough days while education support professionals face 11 furlough days due to budget cuts from sequestration. This will result in military dependents losing school days and vital services while many of their parents are fighting overseas. Due to the timing of this decision these furloughs will be sandwiched into the first month of school next year, impacting students’ access to high quality education.
NEA sent a letter to Congress urging members to help prevent these furloughs and asked Senators to sign on to a letter asking Secretary Hagel to exercise the discretion granted to him by Congress, or seek out additional and appropriate flexibility, to make sure the DoD sequester cuts do not penalize the children of our military men and women.
TAKE ACTION TODAY!
- E-mail Congress — Tell your Senators and Representative to stop the harmful furloughs that are denying educational opportunity to the children of the men and women serving in our armed forces.
BRINGING THE EQUITY COMMISSION TO AMERICA’S CLASSROOMS: A WEBINAR FOR EDUCATORS
Over the last two years, NEA President Dennis Van Roekel, along with 26 other impressive Americans, served as a Commissioner on the Congressionally-created Commission on Equity and Excellence. The Commission released its final report in February. We, along with our partners and guests, invite you to attend a free webinar next week to highlight and elevate the work done by the Equity and Excellence Commission, which produced the report “For Each and Every Child.”
This webinar will discuss how the Commission’s findings can help support local efforts to promote educational equity and success in classrooms, schools and communities. Following short presentations from each panel member, attendees are invited to participate in an interactive Q&A session. Click here to register for the webinar.
CHEERS AND JEERS
Senator Orrin Hatch (R-UT) with support from Senator Amy Klobuchar (D-MN) and Senator Chris Coons (D-DE) for offering the STEM Education amendment to the immigration reform bill. The amendment was adopted by the Committee.
Senator Johnny Isakson (R-GA) and Senator Bob Corker (R-TN) for publicly breaking ranks with GOP leadership and endorsing a move to a conference committee to resolve the massively divergent Senate and House FY14 budgets.
Representative Steny Hoyer (D- MD) who spoke on the House Floor Wednesday morning about the need to replace the sequester and finish work on a budget. In referring to the 37th time the House has voted to repeal the Affordable Care Act, Rep. Hoyer said, “What I find – and I believe most Americans find – incomprehensible is how this House could waste its time on such a blatantly partisan vote when the effects of sequestration are having a growing negative effect on our economy and on the lives of so many American families. That ought to be our focus this week and every week until we find a solution, Mr. Speaker.”
Senate HELP Committee Democrats for voting yes on President Obama’s nominee for Secretary of Labor, Tom Perez. Mr. Perez’s nomination has passed in the Committee and will now be voted on by the full Senate.
Representative Jim McGovern (D-MA) for proposing an amendment to the House Agriculture Committee’s Farm Bill which would restore $20.5 billion in cuts to the Supplemental Nutrition Funding Assistance Program.
House Republicans and Democrats Reps. Jim Matheson (UT) and Mike McIntyre (NC) for voting a 37th time to repeal the Affordable Care Act.
|Senate HELP Committee Republicans for voting no on President Obama’s nominee for Secretary of Labor, Tom Perez.|
|The 27 members of the House Agriculture Committee who voted for a Farm Bill with $20.5 billion in cuts to the Supplemental Nutrition Funding Assistance Program.|