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Federal Legislative Updates

News from Capitol Hill. . .

December 17, 2014

VICTORY! Historic E-Rate increase to help over 20 million students

In large part thanks to the sustained advocacy of NEA members, including during the Representative Assembly, the Federal Communications Commission approved a historic $1.5 billion increase in E-Rate funding that will help over 20 million students during the next five years by providing affordable telecommunications and Internet access for public schools and libraries. “All of our students, regardless of their zip code, deserve access to the digital tools and the time to learn,” said NEA President Lily Eskelsen García. “The first-ever significant increase in funding of the E-Rate program will bring broadband to the communities that need it the most—students and educators in urban, rural, and low-density populated areas.”

Congress passes major funding and tax bills that help students and educators

Before adjourning, the 113th Congress passed two significant bills—the so-called “cromnibus” and “tax extenders”—containing provisions favorable to students and educators.

The cromnibus, the NEA-supported fiscal year 2015 budget deal, funds the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) through February and the rest of the government through September. Of note, the bill provides small increases for critical formula-grant programs essential to addressing inequities and providing targeted help to those most in need of extra assistance, including students in poverty, children with disabilities, and English-language learners; a $75 million increase in the Child Care and Development Block Grant; a $100 increase in the Pell Grant maximum; small increases for minority-serving institutions of higher education, including historically black colleges and universities (HBCUs); and prevented an overall waiver that would have walked away from Healthy Hunger-Free Kids Act nutrition and school meal standards.  While the bill was far from perfect, the alternative of a three-month stopgap funding measure would have been worse for education.

The tax extenders bill continues the NEA-supported $250 educator tax deduction for classroom supplies, and the Qualified Zone Academy Bond (QZAB) program for school construction and improvements.

New Congress, new look, new year

The Education Insider will unveil a new look in 2015, bringing you updates and advocacy opportunities to influence the 114th Congress.

Thank you, cyber-lobbyists, for these victories!

From Capitol Hill to the classroom, your voice AND your membership matter. NEA thanks all 656,827 of our cyber-lobbyists—and extends a special thank you to the top 50 cyber-lobbyists of 2014:

Garrick Balk, IL
Adrienne Bowden, OH
Rhonda Braylock, OH
Rebecca Brown, OH
Patricia Carlin, IL
Linda Casey, NJ
Janice Clark, KS
Charles Cook, MA
Ryan Danzinger, IL
Katherine Elliott, OH
Melissa Fleming, MA
Michael Friedman, NY
Paula Garfield, OH
Esther Garvett, FL
Kathy Goetz, PA
Annabel Gunsallus, VA
Art Hanson, MI
Chris Hunter, LA
Jonathan Kern, PA
Daniel Klipa, PA
Linda Knowlton, VA
David Koeller, WI
Cheryl Laskasky, IL
Janet Maker, CA
Don Mangus, CO

Douglas Marinos, PA
Bethany Miller, OH
Alvin Nash, CA
Wende O'Brien, MA
Patricia Orlinski, AZ
Irene Rathier, RI
Kay Reinfried, PA
Annette Ruch, NJ
Heidi Sandmeier, MN
Pat Schumacher, TX
Christopher Sego, FL
Madeline Shapiro, CA
Chasidy Simplot, WI
Julie Skelton, MI
Georgia S. Smickley, PA
Guy Stanley, TN
Elaine Tokarski, MI
Maria Isabel Van Sunder, CA
Rosemary Walker, VA
Jill Watson, ME
Carolyn Wilson, OH
Jacquelin Woods, IL
Chadwick Wright, OH
Carol Yakimik, NJ
Robert Zatezalo, OH

The 142,836 emails sent to Congress by cyber-lobbyists played a critical role in winning these victories for students and public education in 2014:

  • Obtained a historic $1.5 billion increase in E-Rate funding that will help over 20 million students over the next five years
  • Preserved and slightly increased fiscal year 2015 funding for formula-grant programs that provide targeted help to those most in need, including students in poverty, children with disabilities, and English-language learners
  • Nearly restored fiscal year 2014 funding to pre-sequester levels for core K-12 programs like Title I and IDEA, early childhood, and career preparation programs serving the students most in need
  • Reauthorized and secured a $75 million increase in funding for the Child Care and Development Block Grant (CCDBG) program, which helps make child care affordable for low-income families
  • Extended the $250 educator tax deduction  for classroom supplies and the Qualified Zone Academy Bond (QZAB) program for school construction and improvements 
  • Enacted the bipartisan NEA-supported Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act, the long overdue reauthorization of the Workforce Investment Act
  • Prevented an overall waiver that would have walked away from Healthy Hunger-Free Kids Act nutrition and school meal standards crucial to combating child hunger, promoting wellness, and preparing students to learn  
  • Secured bipartisan support for amendments to add greater accountability and transparency to the House-passed Success and Opportunity through Quality Charter Schools Act

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