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Federal Legislative Update May 2011


May 27, 2011

May 20, 2011

May 13, 2011
May 6, 2011


News from Capitol Hill. . .

5/27/11

ESEA REAUTHORIZATION UPDATE: WHAT WE ARE FIGHTING FOR


I am a third grade teacher in a low socioeconomic school. The parents of my students struggle every day with many problems economically, socially, and emotionally. My students live in an environment where these struggles at home impact their emotional health, which of course, impacts their motivation, behavior, and academic potential. I am a dedicated teacher who cares about my students. I have a great track record in the eleven years that I have been teaching. I work long hours for little pay, and I am tired of being blamed as the cause that our students are not high performing.

Imagine, dear Senators, for a minute if all your support staff were removed. You alone were left to field all telephone calls, complete all paperwork, and be personally responsible for the actions of your constituents. You get the picture. Now imagine that your salary was reduced to below minimum wage if you divided the hours you worked per week by your salary. And don't forget to take away your pension, as I fear our new governor is planning. Okay, now we are on even playing field.

How can you help teachers and students perform better? Stop blaming us and telling us we need more training. Stop telling us if we just do it differently, then students will succeed. Instead, give schools that have struggling students more money and staff to help them. Give those schools more support for their families. Stop thinking that rewarding the high socioeconomic schools and penalizing those that have the most challenges is the answer. Teachers are part of the solution, not the problem. Are you part of the solution? –NEA Cyber-lobbyist, Connecticut

The picture painted by this story submitted to Congress via NEA’s Legislative Action Center is repeated every day in classrooms across the nation. It demonstrates what we are fighting for as Congress starts to reauthorize the Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA), currently known as No Child Left Behind. And, it shows how powerful your voice can be in influencing the debate. Your stories are critical to showing Members of Congress how their decisions impact real students and educators.

Now is the time to act. This week, the House Education and the Workforce Committee “marked-up” legislation to eliminate a number of ESEA programs. Read NEA’s letter opposing this bill. The next piece of legislation is expected to focus on “flexibility,” but could include troubling provisions that allow school districts to shift funding among programs, including out of Title I. This would seriously undermine the federal government’s commitment to students with the greatest needs.

Take Action Today:

  • As Congress moves forward on ESEA reauthorization, we encourage you to share your stories, your ideas, and your dreams for your students with Congress.
  • Also, remind Congress about the core values reflected in the original ESEA. Urge your Members of Congress to reject “flexibility” proposals that undermine the federal government’s role in targeting resources to those most in need.

THANK YOU CYBERLOBBYISTS! TWO MAJOR VICTORIES FOR PUBLIC EDUCATION: RYAN BUDGET AND PRIVATE SCHOOLVOUCHERS DEFEATED!


This week, your efforts led to two significant victories for public education – defeat of the Ryan budget in the Senate and defeat of a private school voucher proposal in the House. We could not have achieved these victories without your help. This year, cyberlobbyists have sent over 150,000 e-mails to Congress on education funding and over 25,000 e-mails to Congress opposing vouchers. Your words have a real impact on Members of Congress – they let your policy makers know you are watching how they vote and whether they are standing up for children and public education.

Both the funding vote and the voucher vote were tests of the fundamental values of our nation. How Members of Congress voted reflects whether they want to continue to funnel taxpayer dollars to private schools and continue to provide tax breaks for corporations and the wealthiest individuals. Or, whether they agree with us that targeting our resources to help those with the greatest needs will help strengthen our nation.

Funding vote: On May 25, the Senate defeated the House-passed Ryan budget for fiscal year 2012 by a vote of 40-57. Five Republicans – Senators Snowe (ME), Collins (ME), Murkowski (AK), Brown (MA), and Paul (KY) – joined Democrats in opposing the budget, although Senator Paul’s opposition vote was due to his belief that the cuts were not deep enough. The Ryan budget would result in more joblessness for the middle class and more tax breaks for the wealthiest in our country. The middle class continues to struggle to find work, pay more for health care, and worry about their children’s education and future. Seniors continue to worry about their retirement security. Yet, the Ryan budget provides rhetoric rather than solutions.

Take Action Today: See how your Senator voted and thank Senators who opposed this dangerous bill.

Voucher vote:Also on May 25, the House of Representatives defeated a proposal to provide private school vouchers for students with disabilities in military families. The 203-213 vote came only two weeks after the same proposal had been resoundingly defeated in committee. On the House floor, 35 Republicans joined most Democrats in opposing this unnecessary voucher scheme.

Take Action Today: See how your Representative voted and thank Members who opposed the voucher bill.

CHEERS AND JEERS


Cheers to:

thumbsup Representative Todd Platts (R-PA), who, during committee mark-up of the ESEA program elimination bill offered, fought for, and successfully secured passage of an amendment to restore funding for Parent Information Resource Centers (PIRCs). PIRCs are the only federal program dedicated to increasing family engagement. The program annually serves 16.4 million parents, primarily within low income and Title I communities where the achievement gap is the greatest. Without this funding stream, parent education and parent outreach programs for these communities could be lost.
thumbsup Representative Susan Davis (D-CA), who offered an amendment at committee mark-up to restore funding for advanced credentialing, which provides support for teachers working toward certification from the National Board for Professional Teaching Standards. Representative Davis argued, “If we’re serious about eliminating the achievement gap and graduating more students who are prepared for college and careers, then we need an education system that is serious about getting an effective teacher in every classroom..By cutting master teacher programs, as this legislation does, we’re punishing the most dedicated teachers who want nothing more than to become the best possible instructors for their students. What message does this send?”
thumbsup Senators Snowe (R-ME), Collins (R-ME), Brown (R-MA), and Murkowski (R-AK) who held firm to their principles and stood up for children, working families and the elderly by voting against the Ryan FY 2012 budget proposal.
thumbsup Representative Steve LaTourette (R-OH), who during House Appropriations Committee mark-up of the Military Construction–VA funding bill offered, fought for, and successfully secured passage of an amendment to preserve “Davis-Bacon” protections that require payment of prevailing wages on public works projects.

Jeers to:

thumbsdown The four House Democrats – Representatives Ruppersberger (MD), Clay (MO), Richardson (CA), and Richmond (LA) – who voted in favor of private school vouchers for military families, even when 35 Republicans joined the rest of the Democratic Caucus in helping defeat the proposal.
thumbsdown The 40 United States Senatorswho voted for the Ryan budget – a budget that runs completely counter to our values as a nation, by failing to take care of those most in need while sparing those at higher income levels.

 

 

News from Capitol Hill. . .

5/20/11


ESEA REAUTHORIZATION UPDATE: INITIAL BILLS MOVING SOON!


The House of Representatives was in recess this week, but will return the week of May 23. The House Education and the Workforce Committee is expected to “mark-up” the first piece of ESEA reauthorization – a bill to eliminate a number of ESEA programs – in the next few weeks.

In addition, Chairman Kline (R-MN) is expected to introduce next week a bill focusing on “flexibility” that could include troubling provisions that allow school districts to shift funding among programs, including moving funds out of Title I. This would seriously undermine the federal government’s commitment to students with the greatest needs. NEA wholeheartedly supports increased flexibility and relief from the one-size-fits all, test-based, overly punitive accountability system under No Child Left Behind. However, we believe that any increased flexibility and local control must still uphold the federal government’s responsibility to guarantee equal educational opportunity for all studentsand mustcontinue to hold school districts accountable for improving results for all students.

Other bills on charter schools, accountability, and teachers/leaders are not expected until later in the year.

Take Action Today: Remind Congress about the core values reflected in the original ESEA. Urge your Members of Congress to reject “flexibility” proposals that undermine the federal government’s role in targeting resources to those most in need.

FUNDING TALKS CONTINUE: STAND UP FOR EDUCATION


In the wake of House passage of an ill-advised and dangerous budget proposal for fiscal year 2012, talks continue on a range of funding issues. The outcome of these talks will have significant impact on our nation’s children and working families, as they will indicate whether we, as a nation, will stand up for the most vulnerable or continue to sacrifice our nation’s future to protect Wall Street and our most wealthy.

On the budget end, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV) is contemplating bringing the House budget up for a vote in the Senate the week of May 23 in order to put the chamber on record against the proposal. At the same time, a bipartisan group led by Vice President Biden continues to negotiate on broader funding and debt issues.

In addition, proposals are still on the table to implement federal spending caps, the impact of which would be devastating for children, the elderly, and working families. As we have reported in recent weeks, the proposed caps are reminiscent of state-level fights a decade ago over the “Taxpayer Bill of Rights (TABOR), under which state-wide referenda established state-wide budget ceilings. In Colorado, TABOR resulted in a drop in per pupil K-12 education funding from $200 less than the national average in 1992 to $1000 less than the national average in 2006. The federal caps under consideration would force the largest cuts in federal spending in modern history – for education, Social Security, Medicare, Medicaid, and other critical programs. Future Congresses would be unable to provide needed funding in case of emerging needs or changing priorities.

We need your help to keep the pressure on in support of children, the elderly, and working families.

Take Action Today: Tell Congress that slashing programs that serve children, elderly, and working families is not the answer to our nation’s fiscal problems.

HELP BUILD SUPPORT FOR ESP OF THE YEAR AWARD BILL


As we reported a few weeks ago, Senator Patty Murray (D-WA) and Representative Lynn Woolsey (D-CA) have introduced the National Classified School Employee of the Year Award Act (S. 547/H.R. 1704) This important legislation would provide long overdue recognition for education support professionals – including paraeducators, clerical assistants, school bus drivers, custodians, food service workers, technicians, custodians, school nurses, and security professionals — for their outstanding contributions to our nation’s schools and the students they serve. As an integral part of the public education system, classified school employees promote student achievement, ensure student safety, and contribute to the establishment and promotion of a positive instructional environment.

Thanks to your efforts, the House bill now has ten sponsors and the Senate bill has nine. But, we still need your help to build more support for this important legislation.

Take Action Today: Tell your Senators and Representative to cosponsor and support the National Classified School Employee of the Year Award Act.

STAND STRONG FOR PUBLIC EDUCATION – SIGN NEA’S PETITION


In the face of escalating attacks on public education, now is the time to stand strong. As you read this, anti-worker politicians and the corporate interests that back them are doing everything they can to undermine educators’ rights. In response, we have to make it clear that we are standing strong for our students, our schools, and our future.

Standing strong for public education means:

  • Fighting to defeat Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker’s drive to undermine collective bargaining, weaken support for working families, and strengthen the grip of powerful corporate interests.
  • Standing shoulder-to-shoulder with educators and public schools under attack in Ohio, Florida, Idaho, and across the country.
  • Pressing to ensure reform of No Child Left Behind includes the voices of educators.
  • And it means electing pro-public education candidates at the local, state and national level in 2012 is absolutely essential to our future.

Make it clear to those waging this assault on public education that we’re ready to fight for our future and we won’t back down. Join with teachers and school support personnel all across the nation in standing strong for our public schools. Sign the “I’m Standing Strong for Public Education” Petition right now. When you sign the petition, you will get a special “Standing Strong” Facebook badge.

CHEERS AND JEERS


Cheers to:

thumbsup The nine Senators and ten Members of the House who have added their names as cosponsors of the National Classified School Employee of the Year Act, including Senator Grassley (R-IA) and Representative Herrera Beutler (R-WA) – the first Republicans to cosponsor the bill.

Jeers to:

thumbsdown House leaders, who have announced possible plans to bring a proposal for private school vouchers to the full House next week for a vote, even after the proposal was resoundingly defeated in committee last week.


News from Capitol Hill. . .

5/13/11

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.

This week, Senator Durbin (D-IL) and Representatives Ros-Lehtinen (R-FL) and Berman (D-CA) reintroduced the bipartisan DREAM Act (S. 952/H.R. 1842). See if your Senator is a cosponsor. The House bill only has one additional cosponsor – Representative Roybal-Allard (D-CA). This important bill 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.

Take Action Today: Tell your Senators and Representative in Congress to cosponsor and support the DREAM Act -- a practical, fair solution that upholds the best of our shared American values of fair opportunity, accountability, and strong work ethics.

PART OF ESEA REAUTHORIZATION MAY BE MOVING TO THE FRONT BURNER!


Part of reauthorization of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act could be shifting into high gear, as Chairman of the House Education and the Workforce Committee, John Kline, is expected to begin introducing a couple of bills as early as this week. Chairman Kline has indicated that he would like to move reauthorization in five major bills addressing: program consolidation, flexibility, charter schools, accountability, and teachers/leaders.

The first piece of legislation, addressing program consolidation, could be introduced as early as this week and will likely eliminate programs in law for which there is no longer funding. This could include the National Board for Professional Teaching Standards and the Enhancing Education through Technology program, both of which were defunded in the FY 2011 continuing resolution.

The next piece of legislation is expected to focus on “flexibility,” but could include troubling provisions that allow school districts to shift funding among program. This would seriously undermine the federal government’s commitment to students with the greatest needs. NEA wholeheartedly supports increased flexibility and relief from the one-size-fits all, test-based, overly punitive accountability system under No Child Left Behind. However, we believe that any increased flexibility and local control must still uphold the federal government’s responsibility to guarantee equal educational opportunity for all studentsand mustcontinue to hold school districts accountable for improving results for all students.

The other bills are not expected until later in the year.

Take Action Today: Tell your Senators and Representative in Congress what “flexibility” should and shouldn’t mean in ESEA reauthorization.

BIG VICTORY: PRIVATE SCHOOL VOUCHERS DEFEATED!


In a major victory for public education, this week the House Armed Services Committee defeated an amendment to the Department of Defense Authorization bill that would have provided vouchers for students with disabilities in military families served by Department of Defense schools or schools receiving Impact Aid funds. The NEA-opposed proposal was completely unnecessary, as current law under the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act already provides for complete services for students with special needs. This includes covering the cost of private school if necessary to ensure full services. And, on a larger scale, the proposal reflected bad public policy. As Congress is proposing drastic reductions in federal spending, there was no reason to divert scarce resources to vouchers.

Defeat of the voucher proposal was a huge victory given the current congressional climate and a testament to the power of strong advocacy and effective partnerships, as the disability community joined with NEA and our education allies to fight the voucher plan. But, we could not have achieved this victory without your help. In the past year, cyberlobbyists have sent over 28,000 e-mails to Congress opposing vouchers, helping set the stage for this win.

**The Representatives who voted against the proposal, including a number of Republicans, were Representatives: Davis, Susan (D-CA), Garamendi (D-CA), Sanchez, Loretta (D-CA), Courtney (D-CT), Castor (D-FL), Miller (R-FL), Johnson, Hank (D-GA), Bordallo (D-Guam), Hanabusa (D-HI), Loebsack (D-IA), Fleming (R-LA), Tsongas (D-MA), Pingree (D-ME), Akin (R-MO), Hartzler (R-MO), Jones (R-NC), Kissell (D-NC), McIntyre (D-NC), Andrews (D-NJ), LoBiondo (R-NJ), Heinrich (D-NM), Owens (D-NY), Ryan (D-OH), Sutton (D-OH), Turner (R-OH), Brady (D-PA), Critz (D-CA), Platts (R-PA), Cooper (D-TN), Reyes (D-TX), Forbes (R-VA), Rigell (R-VA), Smith (D-WA), Larsen (D-WA).

Take Action Today: If your Representative voted against the voucher amendment, thank him or her.

STAND STRONG FOR PUBLIC EDUCATION – SIGN NEA’S PETITION


In the face of escalating attacks on public education, now is the time to stand strong. As you read this, anti-worker politicians and the corporate interests that back them are doing everything they can to undermine educators’ rights. In response, we have to make it clear that we are standing strong for our students, our schools, and our future.

Standing strong for public education means:

  • Fighting to defeat Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker’s drive to undermine collective bargaining, weaken support for working families, and strengthen the grip of powerful corporate interests.
  • Standing shoulder-to-shoulder with educators and public schools under attack in Ohio, Florida, Idaho, and across the country.
  • Pressing to ensure reform of No Child Left Behind includes the voices of educators.
  • And it means electing pro-public education candidates at the local, state and national level in 2012 is absolutely essential to our future.

Make it clear to those waging this assault on public education that we’re ready to fight for our future and we won’t back down. Join with teachers and school support personnel all across the nation in standing strong for our public schools. Sign the “I’m Standing Strong for Public Education” Petition right now. When you sign the petition, you will get a special “Standing Strong” Facebook badge.

CHEERS AND JEERS


Cheers to:

thumbsup Senator Durbin (D-IL) and Representatives Ros-Lehtinen (R-FL) and Berman (D-CA), who stood up for students wanting to pursue the American dream by introducing the DREAM Act this week in the Senate and House.
thumbsup Representative Reichert (R-WA), who introduced this week legislation to expand and extend the educator tax deduction, recognizing the financial sacrifices educators make every day to ensure that their students have the supplies and tools necessary for success.
thumbsup Representative Miller (D-CA), who stood up for teachers unions against attacks by New Jersey Governor Christie (R) at a National Education Town Hall this week. Watch the exchange between Representative Miller and Governor Christie.


Jeers to:

thumbsdown Leadership of the House of Representative, who announced this week the funding allocations for specific committees for the next fiscal year and gave the Labor-HHS-Education Subcommittee a large, disproportionate cut.
thumbsdown The House Ways and Means Committee, which this week approved legislation giving states the authority to shut down the federal unemployment insurance program and use the money for other purposes, setting the stage to wipe out vital support for unemployed workers.
thumbsdown The House Energy and Commerce Committee, Subcommittee on Health, which this week approved legislation that would repeal important protections in the Affordable Care Act (health care reform) that prohibit states from reducing Medicaid eligibility levels or changing the rules to make it harder for people to enroll in Medicaid. This would place many of the vulnerable people who rely on Medicaid, including one third of the children in our nation, at risk of losing the health coverage they depend on.
thumbsdown New Jersey Governor Christie (R), who attacked teachers unions as “the people to blame for the lack of change” at a National Education Town Hall this week. Watch the exchange between Representative Miller and Governor Christie.

 

News from Capitol Hill. . .

5/6/11

REMEMBER THE TAXPAYER BILL OF RIGHTS (TABOR)? IT’S LOOMING IN DC! TELL CONGRESS NO!


As we reported last week, some in Congress are pushing “global spending caps” that would severely limit federal spending for decades. The impact would be devastating for children, the elderly, and working families. This week, the Senate Finance Committee held a hearing on “Budget Enforcement Mechanisms” in which such spending caps were touted. Read NEA’s letter to the Committee opposing the caps.

The proposed caps are reminiscent of state-level fights a decade ago over the “Taxpayer Bill of Rights (TABOR), under which state-wide referenda established state-wide budget ceilings. In Colorado, TABOR resulted in a drop in per pupil K-12 education funding from $200 less than the national average in 1992 to $1000 less than the national average in 2006.

Today, this pattern threatens to repeat at the federal level. The caps under consideration would force the largest cuts in federal spending in modern history – for education, Social Security, Medicare, Medicaid, and other critical programs. Future Congresses would be unable to provide needed funding in case of emerging needs or changing priorities.

Take Action Today: Tell Congress that slashing programs that serve children, elderly, and working families is not the answer to our nation’s fiscal problems. Urge them to oppose global spending caps.

PUBLIC PENSIONS UNDER ATTACK


Public employee pensions are under attack at the federal and state level. This week, the House Ways and Means Committee’s Oversight Subcommittee held a hearing on “the Transparency and Funding of State and Local Pension Plans,” at which Members of Congress discussed legislation that would change reporting requirements for state and local government employee pension plans. The NEA-opposed Public Employees Pension Transparency Act (H.R.567) would create a distorted picture of plan funding, creating confusion among decision-makers and potentially leading states to abandon public pension plans. Read NEA’s full statement submitted for the hearing record and NEA’s letter to the subcommittee.

All working Americans – public and private sector employees alike – deserve a secure retirement. Without adequate retirement income, older Americans will lack the resources that allow them to live independently, afford health care, and contribute to the economy. Public pension plans are not in crisis and are not to blame for the nation’s financial crisis. They should not be the scapegoat.

Take Action Today: Tell Congress to protect public employee pension plans.

BILLS INTRODUCED TO HONOR EDUCATION SUPPORT PROFESSIONALS


Senator Patty Murray (D-WA) and Representative Lynn Woolsey (D-CA) have introduced the National Classified School Employee of the Year Award Act (S. 547/H.R. 1704) This important legislation would provide long overdue recognition for education support professionals – including paraeducators, clerical assistants, school bus drivers, custodians, food service workers, technicians, custodians, school nurses, and security professionals — for their outstanding contributions to our nation’s schools and the students they serve. As an integral part of the public education system, classified school employees promote student achievement, ensure student safety, and contribute to the establishment and promotion of a positive instructional environment.

Take Action Today: Tell Congress to support the National Classified School Employee of the Year Award Act.

STAND STRONG FOR PUBLIC EDUCATION – SIGN NEA’S NEW PETITION


In the face of escalating attacks on public education, now is the time to stand strong. As you read this, anti-worker politicians and the corporate interests that back them are doing everything they can to undermine educators’ rights. In response, we have to make it clear that we are standing strong for our students, our schools, and our future.

Standing strong for public education means:

  • Fighting to defeat Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker’s drive to undermine collective bargaining, weaken support for working families, and strengthen the grip of powerful corporate interests.
  • Standing shoulder-to-shoulder with educators and public schools under attack in Ohio, Florida, Idaho, and across the country.
  • Pressing to ensure reform of No Child Left Behind includes the voices of educators.
  • And it means electing pro-public education candidates at the local, state and national level in 2012 is absolutely essential to our future.

Make it clear to those waging this assault on public education that we’re ready to fight for our future and we won’t back down. Join with teachers and school support personnel all across the nation in standing strong for our public schools. Sign the “I’m Standing Strong for Public Education” Petition right now. When you sign the petition, you will get a special “Standing Strong” Facebook badge.

CHEERS AND JEERS


Cheers to:

thumbsup Senator Robert Menendez (D-NJ), who tweeted this week “Public teachers made a difference in my life & they deserve our support. Thank you to NJ teachers for all the wonderful things you do!”
thumbsup Representative Joe Courtney (D-CT), who spoke on the House floor about the great benefits of and need for school-based health centers. Funding for such centers is targeted for elimination under a House leadership bill.
thumbsup Representative Ron Kind (D-WI), who eloquently and strongly defended public employees and public pension plans against attacks at the House Ways and Means Committee, Oversight Subcommittee, hearing on pensions.
thumbsup The White House, for supporting National Teacher Day on Twitter by tweeting it to 2.1 million followers.
thumbsup The United States Senate, which passed a resolution recognizing Teacher Appreciation Week – introduced by Senators Lautenberg (D-NJ) and Murkowski (R-AK).


Jeers to:

thumbsdown

Members of the House of Representatives who voted this week to repeal funding for school-based health centers. More than 1,900 school-based health centers across the country provide access for nearly two million students to a range of primary, mental, and oral health care services. They offer timely treatment to students who lack insurance and/or whose parents are unable to take time off from work to take the child to a doctor. Families with access to regular medical care are more likely to keep the entire family healthy and create a better learning environment within the home. See how your Representative voted.