Federal Legislative Updates
News from Capitol Hill. . .
April 11, 2014
House passes Ryan budget that hurts kids, families, and seniors
The House on Thursday passed the NEA-opposed Ryan budget by a vote of 219 – 205, with no Democrats supporting it and 12 Republicans voting no. The budget sacrifices the well-being of the middle class and our most vulnerable populations, including children, to give deep tax breaks to those who need it the least. Instead of replacing the devastating sequester cuts in upcoming years, the Ryan budget would slash spending on domestic programs that help kids and families – like education – by nearly $800 billion. The maximum Pell Grant award would be frozen, making the dream of college unattainable for even more students. Medicaid, which provides healthcare for one-third of our nation’s children, would be cut by more than $700 billion. Medicare would be converted to “premium support,” a euphemism for vouchers that would shift a growing share of costs to seniors. And the entire Affordable Care Act would be repealed.
The House rejected the Democratic substitute budget, offered by Rep. Chris Van Hollen (D-MD). In contrast to the Ryan budget, the Democratic alternative called for greater tax fairness to generate needed revenue; replaced the Non-Defense Discretionary sequester cuts starting in 2016; urged new investments in education; extended unemployment benefits for a year; included comprehensive immigration reform (which will lower the deficit by $900 billion); and, protected Medicaid and Medicare.
House committee advance charter school reauthorization bill
The Success and Opportunity Through Quality Charter Schools Act (H.R. 10), introduced by Chairman John Kline (R-MN) and Ranking Member George Miller (D-CA), passed out of the House Education & the Workforce Committee this week. NEA noted that while the bill improves on current law in some areas, the bill falls well short of providing long-overdue parent, student, educator, community, and taxpayer safeguards for the now 23-year-old charter sector – among them, mandatory reporting and disclosure requirements that apply to other public schools. The bill also does not require charter schools to undergo independent audits or open board meetings to the public that funds the schools.
The full House is expected to take up the charter school measure in early May. NEA will be working to improve the bill, especially around accountability and transparency.
NEA weighs in on latest E-Rate plans; make your voice heard
In comments on the Federal Communications Commission’s latest proposal to modernize the E-Rate program – a vital resource for enhancing student learning that provides discounts for telecommunications and Internet access to schools nationwide – NEA expresses concern ( PDF, 98 KB, 14 pgs.) that the FCC does not appear to be interested in raising the funding cap, is proposing to redirect current funds to new uses, and is considering changes to the distribution of funding that would reduce or eliminate altogether the use of concentration of poverty, a move that would exacerbate inequities. Demand for the E-Rate was double the amount available last year, leaving many needs unmet.
Take Action: Tell the FCC how telecommunications and Internet access enhance learning for your students. A template and instructions for filing comments can be found here.
Urge Congress to help students and families by raising the minimum wage
When the Senate returns from its spring recess at the end of April, it is expected to vote on raising the federal minimum wage. Now is the time to make sure your senators know how a raise in the minimum wage would help low-income students and families, including education support professionals. More than 16 million children under age 18 – nearly 22 percent of all children – are living below the official poverty threshold. The current federal minimum wage of $7.25 an hour, the equivalent of an annual salary of $15,080 for a full-time worker, would rise to $10.10 an hour in three steps under the NEA-supported Minimum Wage Fairness Act (S. 1737/H.R. 1010). Share your story: What would an increase in the minimum wage mean for your students’ families and your community?
TAKE ACTION TODAY! – Tell Congress to raise the federal minimum wage.
As Congress takes a 2-week recess, please look for our next Education Insider when they return.
Cheers and Jeers
Reps. John Tierney (D-MA) and Mark Takano (D-CA) for urging the House Education and the Workforce Committee to require board meetings of charter schools to be open to the public during the mark-up of the Success and Opportunity through Quality Charter Schools Act (H.R. 10).
Republican Sens. Kelly Ayotte (NH), Susan Collins (ME), Dean Heller (NV), Mark Kirk (IL), Lisa Murkowski (AK), and Rob Portman (OH) for voting to extend long-term unemployment benefits for five months, retroactive to their expiration in December 2013. After weeks of debate, the measure passed 59-38 this week.
Republican Reps. Chris Gibson (NY), Michael Grimm (NY), Joe Heck (NV), Peter King (NY), Frank LoBiondo (NJ), Jon Runyan (NJ), and Christopher Smith (NJ) for urging their colleagues to take action on long-term unemployment insurance: “We want it extended. We respectfully request that the House immediately consider [the Senate] bill or a similar measure to restore unemployment benefits to struggling Americans.”
Rep. Dan Kildee (D-MI) for introducing in the House the same version of the bill extending unemployment insurance passed by the Senate this week.
Rep. Andy Harris (R-MD), who suggested the Head Start program is a failure and backed private school vouchers during questioning of Education Secretary Arne Duncan during a hearing of the House Appropriations Subcommittee for Labor, HHS and Education.
Rep. Jack Kingston (R-GA), at the Appropriations hearing with Secretary Duncan, for opposing the bi-partisan early education initiative, the Strong Start for America’s Children Act, saying there are enough pre-school programs already despite the large number of students with no access to quality early childhood education programs.