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Federal Legislative Update March 2011

March 25, 2011
March 18, 2011
March 11, 2011
March 4, 2011

News from Capitol Hill. . .

3/25/11

CONGRESS SET TO VOTE ON TAXPAYER-FUNDED VOUCHERS. TELL THEM NO!


Congress was not in session this week, but will return the week of March 28. The House of Representatives is scheduled to vote March 30 on legislation (H.R. 471) to renew and expand the District of Columbia private school voucher program at taxpayer expense.

As Congress prepares to vote on funding for the rest of this fiscal year, proven education programs are facing potentially devastating cuts. It is simply wrong for Congress to consider funneling millions of dollars to private schools while cutting programs that help millions of students in public schools. This vote is very important! Will politicians stand up for taxpayers and the millions of students in public schools, or will they choose to spend scarce taxpayer dollars to expand an unnecessary and ineffective program? Make sure that they hear your voice before they vote!

Take Action TODAY: Tell your Representative to VOTE NO on renewal and expansion of the DC voucher program. Remind them that, instead of taking money out of public schools for private schools, Congress should be investing in strategies to improve student achievement, such as increasing parental involvement, strengthening teacher training, and reducing class size.

CALL IN DAY TO STOP SOCIAL SECURITY CUTS


On March 28 and 29, join the Social Security coalition in a National Call-In to protect Social Security. To reduce the federal deficit, some in Washington are proposing deep cuts to Social Security benefits. We need to stop them. Social Security belongs to the people who pay for it in every paycheck. Don’t let Congress cut benefits, raise the retirement age, or reduce the COLA.

Senators Sanders (I-VT) and Reid (D-NV) have introduced the Social Security Protection amendment to block cuts to Social Security. Call your U.S. Senators on March 29th and 30th, by dialing 1-866-251-4044. Tell them: Hands off Social Security! Vote YES on the Sanders-Reid Social Security Protection Amendment!

OUR STUDENTS’ FUTURES ARE AT STAKE —THEY ARE COUNTING ON CONGRESS FOR SUPPORT!


As Congress returns from their district work period, negotiations will continue on a long-term continuing resolution (CR) to fund programs through the end of the current fiscal year (September 30, 2011). The current short-term CR will expire on April 8; Congress must act on a full-year CR prior to that date to avoid a government shutdown.

At stake is funding for critical education programs like Title I, IDEA special education, and Pell Grants – programs that are critical to ensuring every student the opportunity to succeed in the 21st century. Compromise will be necessary to get any bill passed. But, conservative Members will be pushing for deep cuts in education and other programs. Your voice is critical to keep up the pressure for investments in education.

Take Action TODAY: Tell Congress to craft a continuing resolution that invests in education for our nation’s future.

WE ARE ONE: STAND UP FOR WORKERS’ RIGHTS ON APRIL 4


On April 4, 1968, 43 years ago in Memphis, a long struggle for human rights and human dignity ended in the tragic assassination of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., but it brought economic justice and the respect that all people deserve to 1,300 city sanitation workers.

On April 4 this year, the anniversary of Dr. King’s death, labor unions, civil rights organizations, and religious leaders will stand together across this country for the same human rights and human dignity for working men and women. We will remember the courage and determination of Dr. King and those workers who endured assault and arrest as they walked a picket line for two months. We have stood together as one with public workers across this country whose bargaining rights are under attack, with private workers who can’t get bargaining rights, and against those politicians and their allies who want to silence our political voice.

On April 4, 2011, on the job, in our schools and in our communities, we will remind our elected officials that workers rights are human rights, and that those rights will not be destroyed.

  • Support protestors and rallies across the country by giving a tax-deductible donation to the 51 Fund.

CHEERS AND JEERS


Cheers to:

thumbsup Representative Tim Walz (D-MN), who spoke on the House floor in opposition to proposed cuts to education, stating “As a high school teacher I can tell you, where are the workers of tomorrow going to come from, and how are they going to compete to be the great innovators to win tomorrow?”


thumbsup The Georgia State Senate, which, in a resounding win for public school students, tabled consideration of a bill that would have expanded the state’s voucher program at a time when the state could least afford it. Just as it appeared poised for passage, lawmakers dropped Senate Bill 87, which would have provided taxpayer-funded payments to private schools not subject to state accountability measures. That was due in part to the effective work of Georgia educators and their supporters, who made over 900 phone calls and sent hundreds of e-mails to lawmakers.

Jeers to:

thumbsdownRepresentatives Jim Jordan (R-OH), Tim Scott (R-SC), Scott Garrett (R-NJ), Dan Burton (R-IN), and Louie Gohmert (R-TX), who have introduced legislation that would cut off all food stamp benefits to any family where one adult member is engaging in a strike against an employer. This would have a chilling effect on workers who are considering going on strike for better wages, benefits, or working conditions - things that would allow them to meet their families’ needs without food stamps.

thumbsdownFlorida lawmakers, who passed legislation that sets up a performance pay system based on student test results, evaluates teachers on those test scores, and eliminates due-process rights for all many teachers. The bill is very similar to legislation vetoed last year by then-Florida Governor Charlie Crist, who recognized that the proposals were ill-advised and detrimental to Florida’s students.

 

News from Capitol Hill. . .

3/18/11

 

TAXPAYER-FUNDED VOUCHERS. TELL CONGRESS NO!


The House of Representatives postponed a March 17 vote on legislation (H.R. 471) to renew and expand the District of Columbia private school voucher program at taxpayer expense. But, the vote will be rescheduled for the week of March 28, and House Speaker Boehner (R-OH) is making passage of the DC voucher bill a top priority.

Instead of taking money out of public schools for private schools, Congress should be investing in strategies to improve student achievement, such as increasing parental involvement, strengthening teacher training, and reducing class size. We need to be focusing on getting all students ready for the jobs of the future, not allowing a few students and parents to choose a private school at taxpayer expense. When public schools are struggling and teachers are being laid off, the last thing we need is to spend money on private schools. As Congress is proposing drastic reductions in federal spending, including a House-passed bill slashing billions from core education programs, there is no reason to divert millions of dollars to vouchers.

Take Action TODAY: Tell your Representative to oppose renewal and expansion of the DC voucher program.

FROM PRE-K TO POST-GRADUATE—STUDENTS ARE COUNTING ON CONGRESS FOR SUPPORT!


This week, Congress agreed to another short-term continuing resolution (CR) through April 8 to avoid a government shutdown. But, the new three-week CR is expected to be the last short-term solution, as many Members of Congress have stated opposition to any additional short-term CRs. This means Congress will have come to agreement on a spending bill for the remainder of the fiscal year (through September 30) or risk a shutdown.

Compromise will be necessary to get any bill passed. But, conservative Members will be pushing for deep cuts in education and other programs. Your voice is critical to keep up the pressure for investments in education.

Take Action TODAY: Tell Congress to craft a continuing resolution that invests in education for our nation’s future.

DON’T MISS THE NEA/ROCK THE VOTE DEMOCRACY DAY!


Forty years ago, educators and students stood together and fought to give young adults the right to vote. In doing so, they amended the Constitution and empowered millions of American citizens to have a say in our democracy.

To commemorate the 40th anniversary of the 26th Amendment, Rock the Vote, in partnership with the National Education Association, brings you the first annual Democracy Day. We are kicking off Democracy Day on March 23, 2011, asking educators, principals, school support staff and community organizations nationwide to commit to teaching Rock the Vote’s Democracy Class lesson to students before the end of the school year. Sign up to receive the Democracy Class lesson plan, a video on the history of voting and how elections connect to young people, and additional materials to make Democracy Day a day that your students never forget.

ATTACKS IN STATES CONTINUE—STAND STRONG AND JOIN THE FIGHT!


As attacks against dedicated public employees continue in statehouses across the nation, educators are speaking up and standing up for the students we serve:

  • In Michigan this week, thousands gathered at the statehouse to protest state takeovers of schools and municipalities and a push to outsource education jobs.
  • In Maryland, 15,000 people rallied in Annapolis to support educators and public workers opposing budget cuts that would threaten the quality of the Maryland public school system and other vital public services.
  • And, in Wisconsin, roughly 100,000 converged yet again on the state’s capitol to protest the overreach by the governor and state legislators. Elsewhere throughout the state, thousands converged at a number of locations.

Take Action Today! Keep up the drumbeat! Remind America that teachers, school support staff, firefighters, and other workers play a vital role in protecting and strengthening our communities. Let’s take a united stand against politicians who seek to vilify unions and take away our rights.

  • Support protestors and rallies across the country by giving a tax-deductible donation to the 51 Fund.

CHEERS AND JEERS


Cheers to:

thumbsupSenators Conrad (D-ND) and Collins (R-ME), who introduced legislation that would more closely target federal funding to rural schools – to provide them with the necessary resources to support technology upgrades, teacher training, and other activities. The REAP Reauthorization Act of 2011 would allow the nation’s poorest, smallest, and most geographically isolated rural schools to receive additional funding and flexibility to undertake significant reform.

thumbsup Senator Tom Harkin (D-IA) and Representative Ron Kind (D-WI) who introduced the Fitness Integrated with Teaching Kids Act (FIT Kids Act) to combat childhood obesity by strengthening physical education programs in schools throughout the country.

thumbsup Senator Ben Nelson (D-NE) and Representative Steny Hoyer (D-MD), who introduced the Full Service Community School Act. The bill aims to improve student achievement by helping schools use resources more efficiently and improving the coordination of health, dental and nutrition services for children and their families, career counseling for parents, and early childhood education programs.


Jeers to:

thumbsdownRepresentative Darrell Issa (R-CA), Chairman of the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee, who this week announced that Republicans will not cooperate in moving forward on reauthorization of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act if the President refuses to sign legislation to renew and expand the District of Columbia voucher program.

 

News from Capitol Hill. . .

3/11/11

EDUCATORS WILL NOT BE SILENCED: ATTACKS IN WISCONSIN, IDAHO ONLY STRENGTHEN OUR RESOLVE!


This week, the attacks continued in an ideological war to silence public employees:

  • In Wisconsin, using what’s being called “the nuclear option,” Governor Scott Walker and the state’s Senate Republicans stripped out the financial components of the governor’s unpopular budget repair bill. That allowed them to vote on provisions to eliminate collective bargaining without the presence of the 14 Senate Democrats who had fled to Illinois to prevent its passage.
  • In Idaho, the state legislature passed several bills to overhaul education, including a bill to strip teachers’ rights and end decades of positive collaboration between teachers and their districts.

Similar attacks are underway in states across the country.

Despite these setbacks, we will not be silenced.

  • Educators continue to stand up for their rights. This week, Ohio teacher and NEA member Courtney Johnson testified before a House panel about how attacks on workers’ rights and cuts to education will affect her students.
  • In a statement released immediately following the Wisconsin vote, NEA President Dennis Van Roekel said, This is an affront to teachers, nurses, students, firefighters, construction workers and other everyday people who stood up, spoke out, and learned how much their voice mattered to their elected leaders.  The response will be unified and the collective voice of millions of working Americans from all across this nation will only grow louder.”
  • Outrage over the Wisconsin vote went out in shockwaves from Madison Wednesday night and reverberated across the country. Statements of support for public employees’ rights poured in from Members of Congress as well as other lawmakers and allies.

Take Action Today!: It's time to remind America that teachers, school support staff, firefighters, and other workers play a vital role in protecting and strengthening our communities. And it's time to take a united stand against politicians who seek to vilify unions and take away our rights.

  • Stand with those struggling to defend collective bargaining rights. Sign the NEA National Petition for Workers' Rights.
  • Support protestors and rallies across the country by giving a tax-deductible donation to the 51 Fund .
  • Tune in to MSNBC on Saturday, March 12 for news coverage of the "We Are Wisconsin" rally, which is slated to be the biggest day of protesting in Madison since the stand-off between Governor Walker and Wisconsin's middle class began.

PRIVATE SCHOOL VOUCHERS HEADED FOR A VOTE: TELL CONGRESS TO INVEST IN PUBLIC EDUCATION

On March 17, the House of Representatives will vote on legislation (H.R. 471) to renew and expand the District of Columbia private school voucher program. As Congress looks for ways to reduce federal spending, including a House-passed bill cutting billions from core education programs, there is no reason to divert $60 million in scarce resources to a pilot program that has been proven ineffective by numerous studies.

Take Action TODAYTell your Representative to oppose renewal and expansion of the DC voucher program.

TELL CONGRESS TO REJECT EDUCATION CUTS AND INVEST IN OUR FUTURE

This week, the Senate rejected a House-passed “continuing resolution” (CR) that contained draconian cuts to education and other priorities. The Senate also rejected a Democratic alternative that included significantly fewer cuts and would have increased funding for education. Both measures fell short of the 60 votes needed for passage.

All Democrats voted against the House-passed measure. However, three Republicans – Senators Jim DeMint of South Carolina, Mike Lee of Utah, and Rand Paul of Kentucky – also opposed the measure as a signal of their support for even deeper cuts. The Democratic alternative failed as all Republicans, 10 Democrats, and Vermont Independent Bernard Sanders voted in opposition. While some Democrats opposed even the smaller budget cuts in the Democratic alternative, others voted against it because they favor deeper funding cuts. See how your Senators voted on the House bill and the Democratic alternative

As lawmakers continue to look for a compromise, the Senate will likely agree to another short-term CR to avoid a government shutdown when the current CR expired on March 18.

Your voice is critical to keep up the drumbeat for investments in education.

Take Action TODAYTell Congress to craft a continuing resolution that invests in education for our nation’s future.  

CHEERS AND JEERS

Cheers to:

thumbsupRepresentatives Tammy Baldwin (D-WI), Gwen Moore (D-WI), Ron Kind (D-WI), Jan Schakowsky (D-IL), Nancy Pelosi (D-CA), George Miller (D-CA), Raul Grijalva (D-AZ), Keith Ellison (D-MN), Senator Harry Reid (D-NV), and other lawmakers and allies, who released statements supporting public employees and decrying the vote in Wisconsin to strip educators’ and others’ rights. Read all the statements of support.

thumbsupRepresentative Todd Platts (R-PA), who stood up for his principles and went against his Party, by joining with Democrats on the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee in voting against legislation to expand the District of Columbia private school voucher program.

thumbsupWisconsin State Senator Dale Schultz (R), who was the only Republican to vote against the bill to strip public employees of collective bargaining rights.

thumbsupSenator Patty Murray (D-WA), who reintroduced this week legislation to create a National Classified School Employee of the Year Award, honoring the contributions of education support professionals to their students, schools, and communities.


Jeers to:

 thumbsdownRepresentative Darrell Issa (R-CA), Chair of the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee, who held a mark-up and passed out of Committee a bill to renew and expand the District of Columbia private school voucher program. Chairman Issa supports funneling $60 million to private schools through ineffective vouchers while at the same time supporting deep cuts to proven programs like Title I and Head Start that serve students with the greatest needs.


thumbsdown Representative Virginia Foxx (R-NC), who at a hearing in the House Education and Workforce Committee this week asserted that federal education programs have “achieved nothing” and questioned the necessity for a federal Department of Education.

3/4/11

News from Capitol Hill. . .

36,000 Sign Petition for Workers’ Rights – Are You on the List?


As protests in Wisconsin over Governor Scott Walker’s proposed budget repair bill enter their third week, a national online petition to support Wisconsin teachers has garnered support from over 36,000 people from around the country.

Our message is getting through, as polls continue to show support among the general public for workers’ rights to be heard. But, we still need your help to ensure victory in this critical fight. We need to remind policymakers and the public that the labor movement in this country has been responsible for safety standards, the minimum wage, fair employment practices, and more.  For educators, our collective bargaining rights allow us to raise concerns about class size, school safety, and other important teaching and learning conditions.  Join the fight – add your name to the petition to stand up for workers’ rights.

While the nation seems to have its eyes and ears on Wisconsin, attacks are happening all across the country. Teachers, school support staff, nurses, firefighters, and middle class workers and families are under relentless attack in state after state by an unprecedented, well-funded, and coordinated national campaign. But, as the fight continues, workers and their supporters are standing up and demanding to be heard. Rallies with unprecedented turnout have been held in state across the nation. Read about rallies around the nation.

Tell Congress To Reject Education Cuts And Invest In Our Future


This week, with the deadline to avoid a government shutdown looming, the House and Senate approved a short-term continuing resolution (CR) extending the deadline for an additional two weeks. During this period, the House and Senate will have to negotiate a longer-term CR to fund programs for the rest of the fiscal year. Failure to reach an agreement could lead to a shutdown.
Negotiations will start with a dangerous proposal passed by the House last month that includes draconian cuts to education. The deep education cuts contained in the House proposal would dash the dreams of countless American students, put additional strain on state budgets already cut to the bone, and stall the engine that drives our economy. Thousands of students would lose Title I services and Head Start slots; millions of students would lose Pell Grant assistance; and thousands of education jobs would be lost. See how much your state would lose.

Take Action TODAY:  Tell Congress to craft a continuing resolution that rejects the draconian House-passed education funding cuts and invests in education for our nation’s future.

Cheers and Jeers


Cheers to:

thumbsupSenators Jack Reed (D-RI) and Susan Collins (R-ME) and Representatives Judy Biggert (R-IL) and Susan Davis (D-CA), who introduced resolutions in the Senate and House commemorating the 14th annual Read Across America day and highlighting the importance of encouraging a lifelong love of reading.
thumbsup Representative Susan Davis (D-CA),
for her eloquent defense of educators and all public workers. In her speech, she decried the misplaced blame being placed on teachers for the country’s economic woes and efforts to silence workers’ voices.

thumbsupRepresentative George Miller (D-CA), for his powerful speech on the House floor in which he sounded the alarm about a “very serious and dangerous attack on middle class Americans” and expressed strong support for workers’ rights, stating that “[these] rights and services helped to build and sustain our nation’s middle class in the last century, making the United States the greatest economic power in the history of the world.”

Jeers to:


 thumbsdownChairman, Trey Gowdy (R-SC), who during a hearing in his Health Care, District of Columbia, Census, and the National Archives subcommittee incorrectly claimed that the value of the DC voucher program has been proven “beyond a reasonable doubt.” In truth, four separate U.S. Department of Education studies have shown the program to have had zero impact on student achievement in the District of Columbia.