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Federal Legislative Update December 2011

December 16, 2011
December 9, 2011
December 2, 2011

12/16/11

EDUCATION SUPERSTARS! THANK YOU TO OUR TOP CYBERLOBBYISTS OF 2011


The NEA family won a number of important victories in Congress this year -- victories that would not have been possible without the activism of educators and others who care about children and public education. You sent over 530,000 emails, made over 8,300 phone calls, and made thousands of visits to Members of Congress to help achieve these victories.

Your e-mails and phone calls to Congress help amplify our voice and make sure that the concerns of educators are part of policy debates in Washington, DC. Sharing educators’ first-hand experiences is the most effective way to influence education policy and ensure that Congress crafts laws that will work for real students in real classrooms. We hope all NEA cyber-lobbyists will continue to share your expertise with your elected representatives and encourage your colleagues to do the same. Together, we are strong force that cannot be ignored.

Special thanks to our top 50 cyberlobbyists of 2011 -- who together sent over 17,000 e-mails to Congress. We thank you for standing up for your beliefs and taking time out of your busy schedules to make sure policy makers heard your voice:

Judy Armstrong-Hall, Troy, MI
Timothy Bakner, Virginia Beach, VA
Anthony B. Barrette, Alvin, IL
Linda Casey, Sewaren, NJ
Kathy Cieslak, Bethlehem, PA
Cecelia Collins, Milwaukee, WI
Cheryl Corbett, Tewksbury, MA
Ollie Danage, Aberdeen, MD
Laura Ehrenkranz, Fairfield, CT
Katherine Elliott, Canton, OH
Elizabeth Funderburk, Candler, NC
Esther Garvett, Miami, FL
Annabel Gunsallus, Charlottesville, VA
Betty Hankins, Saline, MI
Art Hanson, Lansing, MI
Robin Kerle, Lucinda, PA
Donna Kirk, East Hampton, CT
Jim Kline, Blacksburg, VA
Daniel Klipa, Plum, PA
LynnAnne Lange, Highland Park, CA
Sharon Lautner, Waretown, NJ
Cari Manzer, Norman, OK
Jeanne Marchiondo, Fairless Hills, PA
Robert Moeller, Glens Falls, NY
Vincent Newman, Hollywood, FL
Wende O'Brien, Brewster, MA
Irene Rathier, Smithfield, RI
Joe Ridgway, Blackwood, NJ
Kenneth Robertson, Kansas City, MO
Robert Rodich, Canal Winchester, OH
Melanie Scaplello, West Chester, PA
Dave Schwarck, Marquette, MI
Rachel Sebolt, Pittsburgh, PA
Fred Shoemaker, Harmony, PA
Kathryn Shoemaker, Lake Isabella, MI
Steve Silverston, Brighton, MI
Chasidy Simplot, Milwaukee, WI
Eileen Slavinsky, Mahwah, NJ
Alisa Sternberg, Titusville, NJ
Jessica Tatton, New Brunswick, NJ
Tina Theuerkauf, Gloucester, VA
Ann Watters, Salem, OR
Melissa Weinberg, Morristown, NJ
Scott Weiner, Jackson, NJ
Ken Weisman, Leesburg, VA
Todd Welcz, Vineland, NJ
Kathryn Wilde, Tucson, AZ
Carolyn Wilson, Zanesville, OH
Jacquelin Woods, Flossmoor, IL
Carol Yakimik, Mahwah, NJ

We would also like to extend special recognition to the three states whose activists sent the most messages to Congress this year: Pennsylvania, New Jersey, and Illinois.

VICTORIES IN THE 112TH CONGRESS: YOUR VALUES AND ACTIVISM IN ACTION!


From Capitol Hill to the classroom, your voice AND your membership matter! This year, some in Congress looked to replicate at the federal level the unprecedented state-level attacks on educators and other public employees. At the same time, Congress sought to reduce the deficit by slashing funding for education and balancing the budget on the backs of our nation’s working families, children, and seniors. Together, we stopped some of the most dangerous and attacks and protected public education, students, and educators.

During the first session of the 112th Congress of the United States, the NEA‘s advocacy:

  • Saved health care for millions of low-income children. Efforts to slash Medicaid, which serves one-third of our nation’s children, failed in Congress. Half of the 68 million people covered by Medicaid in 2010 were children under the age of 19. Children who lack access to health care services are less likely to come to school healthy and ready to learn and to succeed academically.
  • Saved schools serving dependents of military families from elimination — A proposal to eliminate the highly successful schools serving the children of our nation’s military families was blocked.
  • Protected health care for millions of uninsured families — Efforts to repeal the landmark Affordable Care Act failed. The historic law provides health care for 32 million uninsured Americans, enables children to stay on a parent’s policy until age 26, ends abuses such as lifetime coverage limits and dropping people when they get sick, and more.
  • Staved off multiple attacks on workers’ rights — Bills that would weaken the ability of the National Labor Relations Board to protect workers were blocked. Several attempts to undermine wage protections were stopped by bipartisan votes.
  • Stopped devastating cuts to education — a proposal that would have slashed education funding by $17.7 billion or more than 18 percent in fiscal year and by $250 billion over 10 years was defeated. The proposed cuts would have meant ballooning class sizes, devastating cuts in services for the most vulnerable students, and elimination of core programs that help ensure student success.
  • Blocked dangerous budget gimmicks that would decimate education funding and jeopardize economic recovery — Congress defeated spending caps and balanced budget constitutional amendments that could have resulted in the largest federal spending cuts in modern history. It would not have been possible to achieve the proposed spending levels without massive cuts in education, Medicare, Medicaid, Social Security, and other programs that meet crucial national needs.
  • Preserved Social Security benefits — Proposals to raise the retirement age and cut Social Security benefits were blocked in Congress. Teachers and education support professionals, like the majority of middle class Americans, rely on Social Security for their future. Cutting benefits would have harmed millions of workers who were counting on Social Security for a secure retirement.
  • Blocked passage of private school vouchers for military dependents — An attempt to create private school vouchers for military children with special needs failed.
  • Protected public pensions — Proposals to undermine public employee pensions were blocked.
    Thank you all for your dedication and your commitment to America’s students. We wish everyone a very happy holiday season and a wonderful New Year.

12/9/11

THREATS TO EDUCATION AND THE ECONOMY LOOM: SENATE TO VOTE ON DANGEROUS BALANCED BUDGET AMENDMENTS


The Senate is set to vote next week on several versions of a Constitutional Amendment that would require a balanced budget. One proposal by Senator McConnell (R-KY), which is cosponsored by all Senate Republicans, contains a severe global spending cap, requires a two-thirds majority vote in Congress for increasing any revenues, and a three-fifths majority for increasing the debt limit. According to the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities, the global spending cap would force Congress to cut all programs by an average of one-fourth by 2018. The second proposal, by Democratic Senators Udall (CO), Baucus (MT), Manchin (WV), McCaskill (MO), Nelson (FL), and Nelson (NE), does not contain the spending caps or supermajorities for raising revenues and the debt limit. However, it, like all balanced budget amendments, would still be devastating for education funding and other priorities.

Overall, any balanced budget amendment would result in the largest cuts in federal spending in modern history.  It simply will not be possible to achieve the spending levels required under any balanced budget amendment without massive cuts in education, Medicare, Medicaid, Social Security, and other programs that meet crucial national needs.  A balanced budget amendment would damage the ‘automatic stabilizers’ in our economy. It would raise serious risks of tipping weak economies into recession and making recessions longer and deeper, causing very large job losses.

Take Action Today: As educators, NEA members have a unique perspective on the importance of investing in education and protecting the most vulnerable in our nation. The stories you can share with policymakers about the impact of spending cuts on your students, colleagues, and communities can be very powerful. Tell Congress to oppose a balanced budget amendment.

WILL CONGRESS DO THEIR JOB AND PROTECT OUR MOST VULNERABLE STUDENTS?


Congress has once again failed to pass an education funding bill for fiscal year 2012, which began October 1, 2011. Education programs are currently being funding under a short term “continuing resolution” set to expire next week. Members of Congress are debating now whether to pass an FY12 funding bill or simply to enact another continuing resolution.

Education programs typically fare poorly under continuing resolutions, as funding is either frozen and does not meet increased needs or is cut. Congress needs to step up to the plate, do the job voters elected them to do, and pass a real funding bill for the rest of the fiscal year that meets the needs of struggling schools and students. Congress should give priority to funding critical, proven yet underfunded programs like Title I and IDEA special education that target resources to those students and schools with the greatest needs.

At the same time, the Super Committee failure to reach a deficit reduction deal by their November 23 deadline has triggered “sequestration” or automatic cuts scheduled to go into effect January 1, 2013.  These cuts, if unchanged and implemented, could slash billions from education and cause additional loss of jobs across America.  See the projected impact of these cuts on education.  The cuts to education programs would also result in a projected loss of more than 71,000 jobs in communities across America. 

Take Action Today: 

  • Tell Congress to do their job and pass a fiscal year 2012 education funding bill that provides needed resources to schools and students with the greatest needs.
  • Tell Congress to stop the automatic “sequestration” cuts and protect education from further cuts. 

CAN YOUR STUDENTS SUCCEED IN UNSAFE, OVERCROWDED, DILAPIDATED SCHOOLS AND CAMPUSES?


The future nurses, respiratory therapists, X-ray technicians and other allied health employees at Oregon’s Rogue Community College get an excellent science education in their old 1970’s style building. The problem is — it can’t fit them all. Tiny laboratories limit the number of students who can take biology lab or other required, hands-on courses, which forces Jim Van Brundt, the chair of the science department, to reluctantly turn them away from classes.
Read the full story.

Across the nation, a generation of students is being denied the education they deserve and need to succeed in the 21st Century. Outdated facilities and unsafe and unhealthy learning environments are robbing our children of a quality education and jeopardizing the future strength of our nation.

Yet, the Senate vote on school and campus modernization funding has been postponed until after the congressional holiday recess. It is critical to keep the pressure on. The delayed vote on the Fix America’s Schools Today Act (S. 1597), introduced by Senator Brown (D-OH) would provide needed funds to ensure students the learning environments so essential to their success. This funding is critical — far too many students are learning in dangerous conditions and in schools with leaky roofs and peeling paint in overcrowded classrooms with out-of-date or no technology.

Take Action Today:

  • Tell your Senators to put Americans back to work and ensure our children the education they deserve by supporting school and campus modernization. Tell your Senators to Vote YES on the Fix America’s Schools Today Act (S. 1597), which would provide needed funds to ensure students the learning environments so essential to their success.
  • Share your story -- Keep the stories coming. We are using your stories to help put pressure on Members of Congress to do the right thing and focus on creating a great public school for every student.
  • Learn more about NEA’s fight for school and campus modernization on our Education Votes website.

CHEERS AND JEERS


Cheers to:

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Republican House members Todd Platts (R-PA) and David McKinley (WV), who joined 75 Democrats in signing a letter to House appropriations leaders calling for prioritizing funding for Title I and IDEA special education.

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President Obama, who gave a stirring speech in Kansas this week in which he said, “This is a make or break moment for the middle class, and all those who are fighting to get into the middle class.  At stake is whether this will be a country where working people can earn enough to raise a family, build a modest savings, own a home, and secure their retirement.  Now, in the midst of this debate, there are some who seem to be suffering from a kind of collective amnesia.  After all that’s happened, after the worst economic crisis since the Great Depression, they want to return to the same practices that got us into this mess. In fact, they want to go back to the same policies that have stacked the deck against middle-class Americans for too many years.  Their philosophy is simple:  we are better off when everyone is left to fend for themselves and play by their own rules.  Well, I’m here to say they are wrong.  I’m here to reaffirm my deep conviction that we are greater together than we are on our own.  I believe that this country succeeds when everyone gets a fair shot, when everyone does their fair share, and when everyone plays by the same rules.  Those aren’t Democratic or Republican values; 1% values or 99% values.  They’re American values, and we have to reclaim them.”

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Senator Jay Rockefeller (D-WV), who, at a hearing on the nomination of commissioners for the Federal Communications Commission, raised the importance of the E-Rate program and asked nominees about their support for this critical program.

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Representatives Rosa DeLauro (D-CT), George Miller (D-CA), and Jan Schakowsky (D-IL), who circulated a “Dear Colleague” letter to Speaker John Boehner (R-OH)and Majority Leader Eric Cantor (R-VA) calling on them to bring the Fix American’s Schools Today Act to the House floor for a vote.

Jeers to:

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Republican Presidential candidate Newt Gingrich, who this week made jaw-dropping comments in which he said that poor children have “no habits of working” and no one around them with a job. Gingrich has also called for putting poor children to work as janitors in their schools. Read the full story.

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New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg (R), who said that the ideal solution for improving public schools is to fire half the teachers. Read the full story.

12/2/11

HELP PROTECT OUR MOST VULNERABLE STUDENTS: TELL CONGRESS TO REJECT CUTS TO EDUCATION IN WAKE OF SUPER COMMITTEE FAILURE!


The “Super Committee” failed to reach a deficit reduction deal by their November 23 deadline.  With your help, NEA fought hard to prevent the Super Committee from crafting an unbalanced deal that would have cut Medicaid, Medicare, Social Security and education funding without including significant revenue from the wealthiest in our nation.  However, the failure to reach an acceptable deal has triggered “sequestration” or automatic cuts scheduled to go into effect January 1, 2013. 

These cuts, if unchanged and implemented, could slash billions from education and cause additional loss of jobs across America.  The 2013 cuts could total at least $3.54 billion for education, including:

  • A cut of $1.1 billion to Title I that would impact almost 1.5 million disadvantaged students,
  • A cut of $896 million to IDEA that would impact more than a half a million students with disabilities, and
  • A cut of $590 million to Head Start that would impact more than 75,000 young children.

See the projected impact of these cuts on education. 

The cuts to education programs would also result in a projected loss of more than 71,000 jobs in communities across America. 

Take Action Today:  Tell Congress to protect education from further cuts. 

MOLDY, CRUMBLING CLASSROOMS? OVERCROWDED SCHOOLS? CRITICAL VOTE ON SCHOOL AND CAMPUS MODERNIZATION THIS MONTH!


Utah
I sit in a classroom full of 5th graders in a room that is spiking at 85-90 degrees by the afternoon every day. We have been told to try putting a fan in our room and deal with it because the building we work in is too old to have more electricity put into it so air conditioners can be installed..Who has ever asked 11-year-olds to concentrate and do their work in a room that is too hot to think in? How do I teach when I am so uncomfortable from the sweat and the smell of the children who haven’t learned what deodorant is yet? This in inhumane and inappropriate! I cannot be expected to teach and children cannot be expected to learn in these conditions!

Virginia — We have one school that is in desperate need of renovation or replacement in our county. Staff report serious mold problems and water sheeting down walls during rainstorms.

A Senate vote on school and campus modernization funding is expected the week of December 12. The vote on the Fix America’s Schools Today Act (S. 1597), introduced by Senator Brown (D-OH) would provide needed funds to ensure students the learning environments so essential to their success. This funding is critical — far too many students are learning in dangerous conditions and in schools with leaky roofs and peeling paint in overcrowded classrooms with out-of-date or no technology.

Take Action Today:

  • Tell your Senators to put Americans back to work and ensure our children the education they deserve by supporting school and campus modernization. Tell your Senators to Vote YES on the Fix America’s Schools Today Act (S. 1597), which would provide needed funds to ensure students the learning environments so essential to their success.
  • Share your story -- Keep the stories coming. We are using your stories to help put pressure on Members of Congress to do the right thing and focus on creating a great public school for every student.
  • Learn more about NEA’s fight for school and campus modernization on our Education Votes website.

THE ATTACKS CONTINUE: HOUSE TAKES ANOTHER ANTI-WORKER VOTE


This week, the House of Representatives passed another anti-worker bill -- the misleadingly named Workforce Democracy and Fairness Act (H.R. 3094). The bill mandates a delay in union elections by requiring that workers wait at least 35 days after petitions have been filed to hold a vote. During this time, employers will be allowed to use all the anti-union tactics they have been using for years to coerce workers not to form a union -- including hiring firms to run anti-union campaigns, holding captive audience meetings during the workday, harassing and intimidating workers, and even threatening them with layoffs or a worksite or plant closure.  Read NEA’s letter opposing the bill. See how your Representative voted. A number of Democrats gave impassioned, eloquent speeches against the bill and in support of American workers. Read the full debate.

The House vote came on the same day that the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) voted to increase worker protections and make it easier for workers to elect to form a union. The House bill, if enacted, would undo these protections.

Republican Presidential candidate Mitt Romney also weighed in with an anti-labor stance, slamming “President Obama’s out-of-control labor board” for their vote to proceed with a rule allowing what he termed "quickie" elections. Romney further stated, “I have called for legislation that would guarantee workers and businesses at least one month to prepare for a unionization vote, and I applaud the Republicans in the U.S. House of Representatives for passing the Workforce Democracy and Fairness Act to do just that.”

CHEERS AND JEERS


Cheers to:

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Republican Representatives Grimm (NY), Johnson (IL), King (NY), LaTourette (OH), LoBiondo (NJ), Runyan (NJ), Smith (NJ), and Young (AK), all of whom bucked their Party leadership to oppose the anti-worker, anti-union Workforce Fairness and Democracy Act.

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Representative Jim Moran (D-VA), who circulated a letter that will go to House Appropriations Committee leaders calling for prioritizing Title I and IDEA special education funding.

thumbsup The New Hampshire House of Representatives, which voted to sustain Governor John Lynch’s veto of a so called “Right to Work” bill attacking collective bargaining.

Jeers to:

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Democratic Representatives Barrow (GA), Boren (OK), Cooper (TN) Cuellar (TX), Matheson (UT), and McIntyre (NC), who voted in favor of the anti-labor Workforce Fairness and Democracy Act.

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Senator Tom Coburn (R-OK), who proposed elimination of all domestic Department of Defense schools. DoD schools serve dependents of our nation’s military families. They have an excellent record of student achievement and boast very high levels of parent satisfaction. Most importantly, they have the specialized resources needed to address the unique needs of children in military families.