Federal Legislative Updates
News from Capitol Hill. . .
March 07, 2014
President’s 2015 budget stresses education and opportunity
President Obama’s budget for fiscal 2015 moves toward ending the era of austerity with a proposed 1.9 percent increase in education funding and an “Opportunity, Growth, and Security Initiative” that would provide an additional $28 billion for non-defense discretionary priorities, including an enhanced federal role in early-childhood education. Damaging sequestration cuts would be eased in fiscal 2015 and ended in fiscal 2016.
The President’s budget also calls for making preschool available to all 4-year-olds, and would make permanent a tax credit for college tuition and tax relief for college grants. Other proposed tax reforms would help students, transform the economy, and create opportunities for working- and middle-class families. And as previewed last week, the President’s budget does NOT call for use of the “chained CPI” to calculate future cost-of-living increases in Social Security benefits, which would result in painful cuts that accumulate over time.
While there is much in the budget proposal to cheer, it once again falls short by failing to include an increase for core formula grant programs like Title I and IDEA state grants, which address equity issues and help the students most in need. NEA will continue to work with Congress to prioritize funding for these critical programs, as the final fiscal 2014 funding bill did.
“Educators know that the road to economic security and prosperity starts in America’s classrooms,” said NEA President Dennis Van Roekel. “President Obama’s budget rightly reflects our belief that a strong economy starts with a public education system that creates opportunity and excellence for all.”
Senate to vote on program that helps low-income kids and families
Inclement weather forced a delay this week in an expected Senate vote on the NEA-supported Child Care and Development Block Grant (CCDBG) Act (S. 1086), a program that helps low-income working families and parents transitioning from welfare to work find safe, affordable childcare. The Senate is expected to vote on the measure next week. S. 1086 incorporates lessons learned from research and the states, improving the likelihood that more children will enter school ready to succeed by investing in the early-childhood workforce, focusing on early learning, and ensuring the health and safety of children served by the program.
Tell your Senators to vote YES on S. 2077 to extend unemployment benefits
As Congress prepares to vote again – as early as next week – on extending long-term unemployment benefits, the number of long-term jobless Americans stands at 2 million. Benefits ended for 1.3 million workers in December. Each week since then, another 70,000 Americans who would have been eligible have joined them. More than 2.3 million children are living with a long-term unemployed parent – triple the number just five years ago – according to the nonpartisan Urban Institute. In 2012 alone, unemployment benefits kept 600,000 children out of poverty. Read how losing this lifeline is already impacting families and students and help make the case for extending unemployment benefits with more stories.
TAKE ACTION TODAY! – Tell your Senators to vote YES on S. 2077.
NEA raises concerns over equity in new FCC push on E-Rate program
The Federal Communications Commission (FCC) this week released a Public Notice seeking further comments on how to modernize the E-Rate program. A vital resource for enhancing student learning, the program provides discounts for telecommunications and Internet services to schools nationwide; President Obama would like to modernize the E-Rate program to help ensure that schools have high-speed broadband connectivity within five years.
Unfortunately, the FCC’s proposal takes a piecemeal approach to reform, raising concerns that it could exacerbate rather than reduce inequities. Last year, E-Rate demand was double the program’s funding cap – and yet, the FCC appears uninterested in adjusting the cap. NEA is also concerned that the FCC’s proposal would redirect current funds to new uses instead of addressing the real problem: existing needs are not being met.
NEA filed initial comments in September 2013 and reply comments in November 2013 in response to the FCC’s initial, broad request for input on modernizing the E-Rate program. The FCC will accept further comments until April 7, with reply comments due April 21. NEA will have more information in coming weeks.
Cheers and Jeers
Reps. Chris Gibson (R-NY) and Kyrsten Sinema (D-AZ) for introducing the Student Testing Improvement & Accountability Act, a bipartisan bill that would reduce the federal role in testing to the pre-No Child Left Behind status known as grade-span testing. This means states would only have to give federally-mandated tests once in elementary, middle, and high school.
Chris Van Hollen (D-MD), David McKinley (R-WV), Tim Walz (D-MN), Chris Gibson (R-NY), Jared Huffman (D-CA), and David Reichert (R-WA) for introducing the bipartisan IDEA Full Funding Act (H.R. 4136), which would require regular increases in IDEA spending to meet the federal government’s promise to pay 40 percent of the average per pupil expenditure for special education.
Sen. Jack Reed (D-RI) for introducing a bill that would use savings from the farm bill to extend long-term unemployment insurance benefits for six months. The Senate is expected to vote on it next week.
Rep. Raul Grijalva (D-AZ) for calling for a federal investigation of 15,000 automated calls to students’ homes about Arizona’s voucher program, which offers money to parents who send their children to private schools.