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Federal Legislative Update November 2010

November 29, 2010
November 19, 2010
November 12, 2010
November 5, 2010

News from Capitol Hill. . .

11/29/10

CYBERLOBBYISTS -- We need your help THIS WEEK on several issues of great importance to educators, students, and working families. Congress is back for a “lame-duck” session and the stakes are high. They have a limited time to act on these urgent issues. Please take a moment today to make sure they hear your voice:

DREAM Act: Tell Congress to Help Students Pursue Higher Education


Each year, thousands of undocumented students who have lived in the United States for at least five years graduate from U.S. high schools. Among these students, with whom NEA members work every day, are valedictorians, straight-A students, and idealistic youth committed to bettering their communities. Yet, because of their lack of legal status, they are unable to pursue higher education.

The bipartisan DREAM Act gives eligible young people the opportunity to resolve their immigration status and work towards citizenship. They will have to pass background checks and be of good moral character, graduate from high school, and go on to complete additional requirements related to attending college or completing military service. Leading businesses such as Microsoft have endorsed the DREAM Act because they recognize that our broken immigration system is draining our economy of the talent and resources needed to compete in the global economy.

The House and Senate may take up the DREAM Act this week.

Take Action Today: Urge your Representatives in Congress to support the DREAM Act.

Hungry Children Fall Behind! Tell Congress to Pass a Child Nutrition Bill Now!


This week, the House may take up legislation to reauthorize child nutrition programs. Educators know that hunger and inadequate nutrition impact the ability to learn. Hungry children are often irritable, feel ill, and lack concentration. In contrast, students who come to class well-nourished have fewer behavioral and attendance problems, and have higher test scores.

Child nutrition programs, such as the School Lunch, School Breakfast, and Summer Food programs, provide nutritious meals to children across the country. Sometimes, these meals are children’s main source of nutritious food.
At a time when our economy is still struggling, we should not sacrifice our children’s most basic needs. The Senate has already passed the bipartisan Healthy, Hunger-Free Kids Act of 2010 (S. 1650). The House now has an opportunity to pass this critical bill.
The bill would:

  • Help reduce hunger and increase children’s access to healthy meals, including by better connecting eligible children with free school meals.
  • Authorize grants to retain summer food program sponsors, improve and expand breakfast programs, and encourage states to develop comprehensive strategies to end child hunger.
  • Make progress against childhood obesity and improve the nutritional quality of meals by strengthening nutrition standards for all foods sold in schools, providing schools with increased resources and training to improve meal quality, and supporting farm-to-school programs and school gardens.
  • Includes provisions addressing training and professional development for food service workers.

Take Action Today: Send an e-mail to your Representative in the House, urging immediate passage of the child nutrition reauthorization bill.

Tell Congress: Don’t Cut Social Security


Last week, the Chairs of the National Fiscal Commission, meeting in Washington, DC, released a draft proposal that would cut Social Security, including proposals to:

  • Raise the retirement age to 69
  • Cut benefits up to 35% for middle-income workers
  • Cut Social Security’s cost-of-living adjustment, which doesn’t pay enough as it is.

The full Commission’s recommendations are expected on December 1st.

No matter what the Commission proposes, Congress can stop them from cutting Social Security.

Social Security belongs to the people who pay for it in every paycheck. Don’t let them cut it.

Take Action: Participate in the National Call-In Day on Tuesday, November 30. Call your Member of Congress at 1-866-529-7628. Tell Congress NO to Social Security benefit cuts. Hands off Social Security!

Learn more about the fight to save Social Security at www.strengthensocialsecurity.org.

 

News from Capitol Hill. . .

11/19/10

Stand up for Working Families:


Cyberlobbyists: We Need Your Help to Stand Up for Working Families

Congress returned to Washington, DC this week for a “lame duck” session. While they are here, they have the opportunity to stand up for America’s working families, by rejecting proposed cuts to Social Security and extending Unemployment Insurance benefits for struggling families. Read below to find out how you can add your voice on these important issues, by participating in national call-in days.

Tell Congress: Don’t Cut Social Security

Last week, the Chairs of the National Fiscal Commission, meeting in Washington, DC, released a draft proposal that would cut Social Security, including proposals to:

  • Raise the retirement age to 69
  • Cut benefits up to 35% for middle-income workers
  • Cut Social Security’s cost-of-living adjustment, which doesn’t pay enough as it is.

The full Commission’s recommendations are expected on December 1st.

No matter what the Commission proposes, Congress can stop them from cutting Social Security.

Social Security belongs to the people who pay for it in every paycheck. Don’t let them cut it.

**Participate in the National Call-In Day on November 30. Call your Member of Congress at 1-866-529-7628. Tell Congress NO to Social Security benefit cuts. Hands off Social Security!

Learn more about the fight to save Social Security at http://www.strengthensocialsecurity.org/.

Tell Congress: Extend Unemployment Benefits

Unemployment benefits will expire on November 30. Yet, Congress may leave town without extending them.

With five job-hunters for every one opening, the long-term unemployed are in the job search of their lives. They need this critical lifeline to pay rent and keep food on the table.

**Call your Senators right away at 1- 888-340-6522. Tell them: “Across America, unemployment is at record levels. Emergency benefits for workers who have been unemployed for more than 26 weeks are scheduled to expire November 30th. I urge you to renew them immediately!”

DREAM Act: Tell the Senate to Help Students Pursue Higher Education


Each year, thousands of undocumented students who have lived in the United States for at least five years graduate from U.S. high schools. Among these students, with whom NEA members work every day, are valedictorians, straight-A students, and idealistic youth committed to bettering their communities. Yet, because of their lack of legal status, they are unable to pursue higher education.

The bipartisan DREAM Act gives eligible young people the opportunity to resolve their immigration status and work towards citizenship.  They will have to pass background checks and be of good moral character, graduate from high school, and go on to complete additional requirements related to attending college or completing military service.  Leading businesses such as Microsoft have endorsed the DREAM Act because they recognize that our broken immigration system is draining our economy of the talent and resources needed to compete in the global economy.

The DREAM Act may come to the Senate floor after Thanksgiving as part of the “lame duck” session.

Take Action: Urge Senators to support the DREAM Act.

 

News from Capitol Hill. . .

11/12/10

Hungry Children Fall Behind! Tell Congress to Pass a Child Nutrition Bill Now!


Congress will return for a “lame-duck” session next week, with the opportunity to make a real difference for children by passing a child nutrition reauthorization bill.

Educators know that hunger and inadequate nutrition impact the ability to learn. Hungry children are often irritable, feel ill, and lack concentration. In contrast, students who come to class well-nourished have fewer behavioral and attendance problems, and have higher test scores.

Child nutrition programs, such as the School Lunch, School Breakfast, and Summer Food programs, provide nutritious meals to children across the country. Sometimes, these meals are children’s main source of nutritious food.

At a time when our economy is still struggling, we should not sacrifice our children’s most basic needs. The Senate has already passed the bipartisan Healthy, Hunger-Free Kids Act of 2010 (S. 1650). The House now has an opportunity to pass this critical bill.
The bill would:

  • Help reduce hunger and increase children’s access to healthy meals, including by better connecting eligible children with free school meals.
  • Authorize grants to retain summer food program sponsors, improve and expand breakfast programs, and encourage states to develop comprehensive strategies to end child hunger.
  • Make progress against childhood obesity and improve the nutritional quality of meals by strengthening nutrition standards for all foods sold in schools, providing schools with increased resources and training to improve meal quality, and supporting farm-to-school programs and school gardens.
  • Includes provisions addressing training and professional development for food service workers.

Take Action:

  • Send an e-mail to your Representative in the House, urging immediate passage of the child nutrition reauthorization bill this year.
  • Participate in the National Call-in Day on November 15 and 16, sponsored by Feeding America, the nation's leading domestic hunger-relief charity. Call your Representative toll-free at 1-877-698-8228 begin_of_the_skype_highlighting 1-877-698-8228 end_of_the_skype_highlighting and urge immediate passage of a child nutrition reauthorization bill.
  • Learn more about NEA’s support for child nutrition programs and the link between good nutrition and success in school.

 

News from Capitol Hill. . .

11/5/10

What the Election Results Mean for Public Education

The 2010 elections featured 37 Governors races, 37 U.S. Senate contests, 435 U.S. House races, dozens of ballot measures and initiatives, 6,118 state legislative seats in 46 states and myriad local elections across the country. As of this writing, Republicans have picked up at least 60 seats in the House. Republicans also picked up significant seats in the U.S. Senate, but Democrats still have enough seats to control the chamber. There are several races too close to call/likely recounts in both the House and Senate, thus, the ultimate makeup of the 112th Congress will not be known for several more weeks.


In the states, the GOP won 21 of the 37 Governors races. There are still five races too close to call. At the state legislative level, Republicans picked up control in at least 19 chambers and as many as four others where votes are still being counted before chamber control will be determined.

The congressional election results will impact education-related issues. In the House, the change in Party leadership means that new Chairs will step into leadership roles on key Committees, with different priorities and policies on education than the previous leadership. In the Senate, while Democrats will retain Committee control, tighter vote margins will impact the ability to pass legislation.

On education specifically, Congress will have to tackle two main issues—revising No Child Left Behind and setting spending priorities for critical programs and services affecting students and working families, programs such as early childhood education, Head Start, college loans for deserving students, and many others. Students woke up Wednesday morning still deserving the best our nation can offer them. Regardless of the outcome of the elections, every student still needs a great public school to fulfill his or her greatest dreams. NEA stands ready to work with the new Congress to put students first and ensure that education is the engine that moves America forward.

Education policy/ESEA Reauthorization:

The new Speaker of the House is expected to be Representative John Boehner (R-OH) and Representative John Kline (R-MN) is expected to serve as the Chair of the House Education and Labor Committee. Under their leadership, Republicans are likely to be more focused on local control of school systems and local decision making. This week, Representative Kline outlined broad-based priorities for education and employment policy, including “pursuing education reform that restores local control, empowers parents, lets teachers teach, and protects taxpayers.” Representative Kline has also been a supporter of full funding for special education. Areas that NEA will be watching closely will include proposals for private school vouchers and increased support for charter schools.

Education Funding:

Representative Paul Ryan (R-WI), a rising star in GOP who has burnished his credentials as a fiscal hawk is likely to serve as Chair of the House Budget Committee, while either Representative Hal Rogers (R-KY) or Representative Jerry Lewis (R-CA), past chairman of the Appropriations Committee, could serve as Appropriations Chair. Republicans are expected to push hard on spending and are likely to propose dramatic cuts to education and other domestic priorities. Already, would-be Speaker of the House John Boehner has proposed cutting all non-defense federal spending to FY2008 levels.

Social Security:

Some Republican candidates for House and Senate promoted privatization of Social Security, cuts to benefits, and raising the retirement age for eligibility. The National Fiscal Commission on Reform and Responsibility (see below) is expected to make recommendations to Congress and the President by December 1 that could include some of these proposals.

Health Care Reform:

While full-on repeal of the Health Care bill is unlikely to be enacted, Republicans have been vocal about defunding portions of the law or stopping full implementation. It seems likely that Republicans will seek some changes to the historical Health Care reform act, particularly any requirements on small businesses and individual mandates.

Reminder: Speak Up Against Social Security Cuts


The National Commission on Fiscal Responsibility and Reform will hold its next meeting on November 10, 2010 — its final public meeting before the December 1st deadline for its recommendations. If the Commission reaches agreement, its plan — which could include deep cuts to Social Security — has been guaranteed a fast track up-or-down vote in Congress in December.

Last week, 136 Members of Congress spoke out against cuts to Social Security, thanks to the hard work of the NEA Board and other activists who garnered signatures on a letter to President Obama.

Social Security has not contributed one dime to the federal deficit — it actually has a surplus of $2.6 trillion today. Social Security belongs to the people who have worked hard and paid taxes to the program. It should not be cut to reduce the deficit.

The retirement age has already been raised from 65 to 66, and it will go to 67 in 2022. Some in Congress want to raise it to 70. That would cut benefits by 20 percent!

Take Action Now:

  • Submit comments directly to the Commission at commission@fc.eop.gov. Make sure they hear your voice before their next meeting. Tell them that Social Security Social Security is the cornerstone of the social safety net for America’s retired workers and that the program and its benefits must be protected. Urge Commission members to oppose privatization of Social Security and mandatory social security coverage. Tell them how important Social Security is to you. And, ask them to call for repeal of the Government Pension Offset and Windfall Elimination Provision. Share with the Commission your story about how the offsets have impacted you, or will impact you, when you retire.
  • Tell Congress: No Social Security cuts. No retirement age increase. No risky privatization schemes. Also urge them to repeal the unfair Social Security offsets that threaten the retirement security of far too many educators, police, firefighters, and other public employees.

Other Ways to Get Involved: