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Federal Legislative Update July 2011


July 29, 2011

July 22, 2011

July 15, 2011

7/29/11

ENOUGH IS ENOUGH – DANGEROUS POLITICAL BRINKSMANSHIP THREATENS CHILDREN, SENIORS, AND THE MIDDLE CLASS


With less than a week to default on our national debt, negotiations continue between the President and congressional leaders in an attempt to avoid an economic disaster. The President has called for a compromise and a balanced approach that ensures shared sacrifice. But, Tea Party conservatives in the House continue to insist on a deal that includes no revenue increases. The result of such a deal would be to balance the budget on the backs of children, seniors, the middle class, and the poor – without ensuring that corporations, oil companies, and the wealthiest individuals pay their fair share.

Negotiations are continuing throughout the weekend as lawmakers scramble to put together a final deal before financial markets open on Monday. The debt ceiling must be raised by Tuesday, August 2nd to avert a major financial disaster.

We must ratchet up the pressure immediately on Congress to ensure that they protect children, seniors, and the middle class. The political posturing and refusal to compromise has gone on long enough. Reckless political brinksmanship by a small, vocal minority is holding our nation’s financial stability, credibility, and future hostage.

Take Action Today: Tell Congress to compromise on a balanced approach that protects the most vulnerable and ensures those most able to do so pay their fair share.

ESEA REAUTHORIZATION: HEARING HELD ON TEACHER QUALITY


This week, the House Committee on Education and the Workforce held a hearing on “Education Reforms: Exploring Teacher Quality Initiatives.” The focus of the hearing was teacher evaluation, with many of the witnesses stressing the importance of including teachers and their representing unions in the development and implementation of evaluation systems.

NEA submitted the Association’s newly adopted policy statement on teacher evaluation and accountability to the Committee in advance of the hearing. The recently adopted Policy Statement – approved by a majority vote of more than 8,000 delegates to the Association’s Annual Meeting earlier this month -- puts NEA on the record, for the first time, as calling for a comprehensive overhaul of both teacher evaluation and accountability systems to advance student learning.

This fall, additional work is expected on ESEA reauthorization around teacher quality. NEA believes that students and teachers deserve high quality evaluation systems that provide the tools teachers need to continuously tailor instruction, enhance practice, and advance student learning. But, the responsibility for crafting teacher evaluation and accountability systems should lie at the state and local level, not with the federal government.

Take Action Today: Tell Congress how teacher quality issues should and should not be addressed in an ESEA Reauthorization bill.

JOIN THE SAVE OUR SCHOOLS RALLY AND MARCH – JULY 30, 2011


The Save our Schools (SOS) rally and march is
a grassroots movement to reclaim schools as places of learning, joy, and democracy. The event will take place this weekend – July 30 – in Washington, DC, but there are also ways to participate in or plan actions in your local area!

For more information and updates, to tell us you will be marching, or to let us know about events in your area, visit the SOS March page on NEA’s Education Votes website.

CHEERS AND JEERS


Cheers to:

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Representatives Danny Davis (D-IL), Towns (D-NY), McDermott (D-WA), Rush (D-IL), Jackson, Jr. (D-IL), Stark (D-CA), Gwen Moore (D-WI), Payne (D-NJ), Filner (D-CA), Barbara Lee (D-CA), Grijalva (D-AZ), Fudge (D-OH), Fattah (D-PA), Christensen (D-VI), Clarke (D-NY), Robert Brady (D-PA), Frederica Wilson (D-FL), Woolsey (D-CA), George Miller (D-CA), Waters (D-CA), Ellison (D-MN), Jackson-Lee (D-TX), Carson (D-IN), Hank Johnson (D-GA), Chu (D-CA), Hinchey (D-NY), McGovern (D-MA), Cummings (D-MD), Gutierrez (D-IL), DeLauro (D-CT), Roybal-Allard (D-CA), McCollum (D-MN), Conyers (D-MI), Reyes (D-TX), Butterfield (D-NC), Bennie Thompson (D-MS), Brown (D-FL), Cohen (D-TN), Olver (D-MA), and Alcee Hastings (D-FL), all of whom signed a letter to President Obama and congressional leaders urging them to protect children in any deficit reduction deal. The letter stated in part, “As August 2nd quickly approaches, and we debate raising the debt ceiling and the economic future of our nation, we must not forget about those who will be called on to create our future prosperity. If children are a national priority, we need to understand whether our spending and revenue choices disproportionately harm or protect them.”

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Representative George Miller (D-CA), who at the House Education and the Workforce hearing on teacher quality gave an eloquent opening statement in support of teachers, stating, “It’s a productive exercise to talk about how we can improve and modernize the teaching profession because these conversations will hopefully lead to better policies and improve student success. What is not productive are the attacks we’ve seen on teachers across the country from Republican governors. In trying to strip teachers of all collective bargaining rights except for negotiations over pay, these governors are showing how out of touch they are with today's teaching profession, school reform in America, and, frankly, the American workplace.” Representative Miller also stated, “Any efforts to help teachers must be done WITH teachers not to them. It’s time we treated the teaching profession like any other modern workplace, with support, resources, real professional development, and real rewards.”

Jeers to:

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Tea Party Conservatives in Congress, who are holding our nation hostage – insisting on balancing the budget on the backs of the middle class, children, and seniors while continuing to protect corporations, oil companies, Wall Street, and the wealthiest individuals.


News from Capitol Hill. . .

7/22/11


RECKLESS: INACTION ON CAPITOL HILL JEOPARDIZES STUDENTS AND MIDDLE CLASS FAMILIES


The August deadline looms for Congress to raise the nation’s debt ceiling and avoid catastrophic economic fallout. This week, the House passed the NEA-opposed Cut, Cap, and Balance Act (H.R. 2560), which would write spending caps into law and hold the debt limit increase hostage unless two-thirds of the House and the Senate agree to a constitutional balanced budget amendment. Read NEA’s letter opposing the bill and see how your Representative voted.

Like other proposed spending caps and balanced budget amendments, this plan – which should really be called the “Dodge, Duck, and Dismantle Act” – would result in the largest cuts in federal spending in modern history – slashing education, Medicare, Medicaid, Social Security, and other programs that meet crucial national needs. The proposal does not exempt core basic assistance programs for the poorest Americans from across-the-board cuts, yet seeks to safeguard tax cuts and tax breaks for the wealthiest Americans. President Obama has threatened to veto the bill should it come to his desk for signature.

Instead of balancing the budget on the backs of the poor and middle class, policymakers should ensure that any deal includes revenue raised by making the wealthiest in our nation pay their fair share. Elected officials should work together on a bipartisan basis to help Main Street hang on, not help Wall Street get more.

Take Action Today: Tell Congress that the budget should not be balanced on the backs of the middle class and our most vulnerable populations!

BILL TO FUND SPECIAL EDUCATION INTRODUCED!


This week, Senator Harkin (D-IA) introduced the IDEA Full Funding Act. The bill would make funding for special education mandatory and gradually increase funding to reach the federal government’s promised level (40 percent of the national average per pupil expenditure of every child in special education) by FY 2021.

For too long, Congress has failed to live up to its commitment to fund special education. This continued underfunding – in combination with current state fiscal crises – forces school districts to either raise taxes or dip into general education budgets to make up for the shortfall, thereby cutting other critical services.

Take Action Today: Urge your Senators to cosponsor and support the IDEA Full Funding Act.

SAVE OUR SCHOOLS RALLY AND MARCH -- JULY 30, 2011


The Save our Schools (SOS) rally and march is grassroots movement to reclaim schools as places of learning, joy, and democracy. The event will take place on July 30, in Washington, DC, but there are also ways to participate in or plan actions in your local area!

For more information and updates as the date approaches, to tell us you will be marching, or to let us know about events in your area, visit the SOS March page on NEA’s Education Votes website.

CHEERS AND JEERS


Cheers to:

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President Obama, who issued a veto threat for the House-passed Cap, Cut, and Balance Act – a bill that seriously jeopardizes our nation’s future strength and hurts those in our nation least able to afford further sacrifice.

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Representative Petri (R-WI) – the first Republican in the U.S. House of Representatives to add his name as a cosponsor of the Annual National Classified School Employee of the Year Award Act. The bill would provide long overdue recognition for the outstanding contributions to our nation’s schools and the students served by our Education Support Professionals.

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Senators Harkin (D-IA), Durbin (D-IL), Lautenberg (D-NJ), Blumenthal (D-CT), Murray (D-WA), Whitehouse (D-RI) and Leahy (D-VT) the original sponsors of the IDEA Full Funding Act introduced this week.

Jeers to:

thumbsdown Representatives Boren (D-OK), Cooper (D-TN), Matheson (D-UT), McIntyre (D-NC) and Shuler (D-NC) – the only five Democrats in the House of Representatives who voted in favor of the ill-conceived and very dangerous Cap, Cut, and Balance Act.

News from Capitol Hill. . .

7/15/11

BUDGET TALKS: TELL POLICY MAKERS TO PROTECT CHILDREN AND THE MIDDLE CLASS!


Talks continue at the highest levels of the federal government on deficit reduction, spending cuts, and the debt ceiling, as the deadline for raising the nation’s debt limit rapidly approaches. At stake in these talks is the very future of our nation. Will leaders craft a deal that hurts those least able to afford further sacrifice, or will they realize that any deal must include ways to raise revenue from those most able to pay?

There is much to be concerned about in the current debate. Proposed cuts to education funding and Medicaid will harm students and our future. Proposals to tax employer-sponsored health care would cause millions of middle class families to lose their benefits. And, now some policy makers are talking about cutting Social Security as well!

Instead of balancing the budget on the backs of the middle class, policymakers should ensure that any deal includes revenue raised by making the wealthiest in our nation pay their fair share. Elected officials should work together on a bipartisan basis to help Main Street hang on, not help Wall Street get more.

Take Action Today: Tell Congress that the budget should not be balanced on the backs of the middle class and our most vulnerable populations!

ESEA REAUTHORIZATION: TELL CONGRESS TO PRESERVE FEDERAL ROLE AS PROTECTOR OF NATION’S MOST VULNERABLE STUDENTS


I am a dedicated teacher working in a school with near 90 percent of our students in the low- income bracket. In our school we have some amazing students! We have students that show up every day with problems in their home lives, the likes of which most students will never know. Their circumstances are not their fault. Their circumstances are not my fault either. Yet we never show up whining about what we don't have in life. We make the best of what we have, which is significantly less than our more affluent neighboring districts. I spend hundreds of dollars every school year buying learning materials to properly differentiate for all the students in my classroom. The one- size-fits-all curriculum purchased by the district does not work when you have a gifted student and a student who doesn't know how to read basic words in the same classroom all day with no additional staff to help. I have purchased an alarm clock for my 7 year old student with no adult at home to make sure she got to school and no breakfast in her stomach. When she goes home there is no one who speaks English for her to read to and help her with homework. Schools are not the reason for societal ills, they are victims of it. Letting school vouchers and school choice shuffle the focus away from inequitable funding is not the solution. Here's the basic kindergarten way to explain this: 1+1=2. You cannot "take away" and still expect to have more. Even a kindergartener knows that. – NEA Cyberlobbyist, Illinois

This week, the House Education and the Workforce Committee “marked-up” the State and Local Funding Flexibility Act (H.R. 2445). While billed as increasing state and local flexibility, in reality, the NEA-opposed bill would compromise the civil rights of low income, English language learners (ELL), and Native American students. Despite its good intentions, the bill could create a loophole allowing the diversion of already scarce resources from vulnerable populations like those described in the story above. Read NEA’s press release on the bill and NEA’s letter submitted to the Committee.

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.

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.

JOIN THE SAVE OUR SCHOOLS RALLY AND MARCH -- JULY 30, 2011


The Save our Schools (SOS) rally and march is
a grassroots movement to reclaim schools as places of learning, joy, and democracy. The event will take place on July 30, in Washington, DC, but there are also ways to participate in or plan actions in your local area!

For more information and updates as the date approaches, to tell us you will be marching, or to let us know about events in your area, visit the SOS March page on NEA’s Education Votes website.

CHEERS AND JEERS


Cheers to:

thumbsup Representative Courtney (D-CT), who continued his strong leadership role in opposing unfair tax treatment of employer provided health benefits, including by authoring a piece in the Huffington Post in which he blasted the idea of repealing the tax exemption for employment-based health benefits, and sponsoring a briefing in conjunction with labor leaders on the health benefits tax exclusion issue.
thumbsup Senator Murkowski (R-AK), who addressed participants at NEA’s Republican Leaders Conference this week and stressed the importance of educator voices in the debate on ESEA reauthorization
thumbsup Representative Murphy (D-CT), who wrote an article for the Huffington Post in which he warned of the dangers slash funding for Medicaid -- a program that 60 million Americans rely on for their basic health care needs.

Jeers to:

thumbsdown Representative Foxx (R-NC), who, at the House Education and the Workforce Committee mark-up of the NEA-opposed State and Local Funding Flexibility Act, argued that there is no need to categorize help for specific student groups (like students in poverty or English Language Learners) because all they have to do is work hard and they will succeed. Watch the full mark-up on the Committee website (click “archived webcast”).