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Federal Legislative Update February 2012

February 24, 2012
February 17, 2012
February 10, 2012
February 3, 2012

2/24/12

ESEA MARK-UP NEXT WEEK:  SPEAK OUT NOW FOR EQUITY FOR ALL STUDENTS


On February 28, the House Committee on Education and the Workforce Chairman will hold a mark-up on two new ESEA reauthorization bills – the Student Success Act (H.R. 3989) and the Encouraging Innovation and Effective Teachers Act (H.R. 3990). In this mark-up, committee members will debate amendments to the bills and vote on sending them to the full House.

NEA is working aggressively with members of the committee on both sides of the aisle to push changes to the bills and raise issues of concern to educators and students during mark-up. Our priorities for mark-up align closely with our previously identified bill pros and cons, including ensuring equity and adequate resources for all students. The mark-up with be broadcast live starting at 10:00am Eastern Time on Tuesday, February 28, on the Education and the Workforce Committee website.

Take Action Today:  The mark-up offers an important opportunity for educators to weigh in about what really works for students and schools. Now is particularly the time to call for a continued federal commitment to ensuring equity in education – so that every student, regardless of income, disability, or other factors, has access to a great public school. Contact your Representative today to give your thoughts about what will work best for your students and school.

EDUCATION FUNDING: TELL CONGRESS “DON’T SHORTCHANGE OUR CHILDREN”


Congressional debates on the budget for the next fiscal year (FY 2013) will be on the front burner in the coming weeks. As we reported last week, President Obama released a budget proposal for fiscal year 2013 that targets education for the single largest percentage increase of any discretionary item in the entire federal budget. Highlights of the President’s budget include ensuring greater college and career access for all students, significant resources for job creation – including for educators, and making sure that all educators are prepared when they step into the classroom.

The congressional debate on the budget will be impacted by the president’s proposal as well as by automatic cuts to education and other programs scheduled to go into effect on January 1, 2013. Congress will need to decide whether to accept any of the president’s budget plan. And, they will need to decide whether to let the impending automatic cuts go forward. NEA will be working hard to ensure that Congress stops the automatic education cuts and makes education a top budget priority.

See what the impending cuts for Title I, special education, and other critical programs would mean for your state.
Take Action Today: Urge Congress to pass a budget resolution that doesn’t shortchange our children and reflects the President’s emphasis on education as a top priority.

TELL CONGRESS TO RECOGNIZE CONTRIBUTIONS OF 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.

Thanks to your efforts, the House bill now has almost 90 bipartisan sponsors and the Senate bill has fifteen bipartisan sponsors. 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.

CHEERS AND JEERS


Cheers to:

Virginia educators, who launched a statewide day of mourning in response to staggering budget cuts and vicious attacks on teachers by Virginia elected officials. Within just a few days, what became known as “Black Friday” spread by Facebook and email to every city, town, and hollow in the commonwealth. More than 4,000 Virginia educators pledged on Facebook and email to wear black to work on “Black Friday.”

The U.S. Department of Education, which released RESPECT (Recognizing Educational Success, Professional Excellence and Collaborative Teaching), a proposal that challenges states and districts to work with teachers and their unions to support and improve the teaching profession.. NEA has called the plan “a critical first-step in helping all students have access to the necessary resources – namely qualified and licensed teachers who are empowered to innovate – to receive quality education.

Jeers to:

Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney, who at a campaign stop in Michigan reiterated his support for a national right to work law despite the state’s governor, who endorsed Romney, saying he considers the issue “very divisive” and that there are more important issues facing the state.

New Jersey Governor Chris Christie (R), who in response to questions about the current economic crisis and Warren Buffet’s call for the wealthiest in our nation to pay their fair share in taxes said “well he should just write a check and shut up.  Really. And just contribute. The fact of the matter is that I’m tired of hearing about it.”

2/17/12 

PRESIDENT’S BUDGET MAKES EDUCATION THE TOP PRIORITY!


This week, President Obama released his budget proposal for fiscal year 2013. The budget proposal builds on the President’s top priority to boost the middle class and promote economic fairness. President Obama made clear in his budget that high-quality education is absolutely critical to rebuilding our economy, and that a strengthened American workforce requires that we continue to invest in education. The President’s emphasis on education is evidenced by the fact that education is targeted for the single largest percentage increase of any discretionary item in the entire federal budget.

Highlights of the President’s budget include:

  • Considerable focus on ensuring greater college and career access for all students. The President’s plan includes an $8 billion “Community College to Career Fund,” to train 2 million workers for well-paid jobs in high-demand areas like health care. Learn more.
  • Targeting of significant resources toward job creation, including $30 billion for school modernization projects that will create jobs and $25 billion to help states and localities retain and hire teachers, education support professionals, and first responders.
  • Emphasis on increasing the quality of teacher preparation and making sure that all educators are prepared when they step into the classroom.

NEA praised the President’s budget as clearly showing “the president’s commitment to keeping teachers in classrooms, which will help address growing class sizes, and to providing assistance to states and locals facing tough economic times.”  Read NEA’s press release.

Congress will begin work soon on the congressional budget resolution for fiscal year 2013. Members of Congress need to hear strong support for the President’s proposals to make education a top priority.

Take Action Today: Urge Congress to pass a budget resolution that reflects the President’s emphasis on education as a top priority.

ESEA: HOUSE HEARING HELD YESTERDAY; COMMITTEE MARK-UP EXPECTED SOON


This week, the House Committee on Education and the Workforce Chairman held a hearing on two new ESEA reauthorization bills – the Student Success Act (H.R. 3989) and the Encouraging Innovation and Effective Teachers Act (H.R. 3990). Watch the hearing and read witnesses written statements submitted for the official record. A “mark-up” where the committee debates amendments to the bills and votes on sending them to the full House could take place at the end of the month, right after the congressional Presidents’ Day recess.

NEA conveyed a number of concerns about the Kline bills to the committee, starting with the lack of commitment to ensuring equity in education for all students. NEA believes that every student, regardless of poverty, disability, or other challenges, deserves access to a quality education. Read more. We are also very concerned with the draft Kline bills’ elimination of requirements that states maintain their level of funding for education. Without these requirements, states facing budget crises will certainly cut funding for education, leaving millions of students without the resources they need to succeed. Read an updated list of pro and cons in the Kline bills.

Take Action Today:  Educators working in schools and classrooms across the country are the best and most effective voices to ensure a good ESEA reauthorization bill.  Your experience and expertise are critical to the debates in Congress and policymakers need to hear what you have to say.  Contact your Representative today to give your thoughts about what will work best for your students and school.

STAND UP FOR VOTERS’ RIGHTS: VISIT NEA’S NEW VOTER PROTECTION SITE


New and restrictive voting laws in states across the country are threatening to keep as many as five million voters from casting a ballot this November.  Many of these laws remove early access to voting; make it more difficult for citizens to register; or require restrictive photo ID cards that many seniors, minorities and students do not have.  NEA’s Education Votes website now features a dedicated page on voter protection, where you can learn how these misguided laws may impact you in your state and how you can be prepared if anyone tries to limit your right to vote. The site also features good news about how educators and others are fighting back against these anti-voter initiatives.

CHEERS AND JEERS


Cheers to:

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President Obama, who made students and educators a top priority in his fiscal year 2013 budget – proposing the largest percentage increase for education of any discretionary item in the entire federal budget.

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Representative Judy Biggert (R-IL), who at this week’s hearing on ESEA reauthorization, raised critical concerns about the use of standardized test results to evaluate teachers and about the need to protect teacher privacy. Representative Biggert also highlighted the need to encourage parental involvement in their child’s education.

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Representative Phil Roe (R-TN), who at the ESEA reauthorization hearing, made an eloquent argument about the flaws in current law that evaluate and penalize teachers and schools for circumstances beyond their control that impact their students’ achievement, such as factors in the student’s home environment.

thumbsup Senator Dick Durbin (D-IL), who spoke on the Senate floor about the abuses perpetrated by some for-profit colleges that “are taking advantage of students with little or no life experience who end up, many times, with their parents signing for student loan debt that is unconscionable, at levels they will never be able to repay in any reasonable time, and often, when it comes to for-profit schools, for worthless diplomas if the student is lucky enough to finish.”
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The Wyoming legislature, which, by a vote of 18-42 killed a bill that would have prohibited collective bargaining by firefighters and any other public sector employees, including education personnel.

Jeers to:

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Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney, who issued a statement this week entitled “Unlike Obama, Romney Will Stand Up To Big Labor,” in which he blasted the President’s pro-labor policies and vowed that as President he would “amend NLRA to explicitly protect the right of business owners to allocate their capital as they see fit” and “reverse executive orders issued by President Obama that tilt the playing field toward organized labor.”

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Bob Shaffer, Chair of the Colorado Board of Education, who at this week’s ESEA hearing stated that there is no need at all for a teacher licensing system if there is a strong evaluation process.

2/10/12

ROMNEY AND GINGRICH: IN THEIR OWN WORDS


Election 2012 is in full swing. In both state and federal races, so much of what you care about is on the line, from public education, students, and the survival of a middle class to jobs, health care, and strong communities. And, hearing from the candidates in their own words is the best way to tell where they really stand. NEA’s Election 2012 website, part of our Education Votes, site, now includes a compilation of candidates’ own words on issues of importance to educators. The Election 2012 website also includes a weekly “Just the Facts” compilation of candidates’ public statements, organized by issue.

NEA members: Become an Educator for Obama. Now more than ever, we need to elect a President who shares our vision for a stronger America. Do your part and pledge to be an educator for Obama today on the NEA Fund for Children and Public Education website. The website also features information on other NEA recommended candidates for federal office (Democrats and Republicans) as well as the profiles of NEA Fund members and the latest news on the election.

PRESIDENT TO INTRODUCE BUDGET PROPOSAL FEBRUARY 13


President Obama will release his fiscal year 2013 budget proposal on Monday, February 13. House and Senate Budget Committees will then begin work on a congressional budget proposal. Debates will likely continue to highlight two very different visions for America – one where those most able to do so are asked to pay their fair share, and one where we continue to cut programs that serve those in need while providing ongoing tax breaks to Wall Street.

Budget negotiations this year will be particularly critical, as automatic cuts are scheduled to go into effect for many programs, including education, on January 1, 2013. These cuts, triggered by the failure of the “super committee” to reach a deficit reduction deal late last year, could slash billions from education and cost 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 craft a budget that ensures all Americans a fair shot and makes sure all pay their fair share.

ESEA: HOUSE HEARING SET FOR FEBRUARY 16; WAIVERS ANNOUNCED TO GIVE RELIEF FROM NO CHILD LEFT BEHIND


House Action:
This week, House Committee on Education and the Workforce Chairman John Kline (R-MN) formally introduced his two ESEA reauthorization bills – the Student Success Act (H.R. 3989) and the Encouraging Innovation and Effective Teachers Act (H.R. 3990) – and announced a hearing on the bills for February 16. The introduced bills are slightly different than the drafts released a few weeks ago. NEA is analyzing the new bills and will provide updated analyses.

NEA had a number of concerns about the Kline draft bills, starting with the lack of commitment to ensuring equity in education for all students. NEA believes that every student, regardless of poverty, disability, or other challenges, deserves access to a quality education. Read more. We are also very concerned with the draft Kline bills’ elimination of requirements that states maintain their level of funding for education. Without these requirements, states facing budget crises will certainly cut funding for education, leaving millions of students without the resources they need to succeed.

NCLB Waivers: Also this week, President Obama and Department of Education Secretary Arne Duncan announced the approval of ten states’ plans to make substantial school reforms in return for temporary regulatory relief from some of No Child Left Behind's mandates. The Administration endorsed plans by Colorado, Florida, Georgia, Indiana, Kentucky, Massachusetts, Minnesota, New Jersey, Oklahoma, and Tennessee. NEA is encouraged by efforts to provide relief from No Child Left Behind, but we believe the waivers are only a stopgap measure. NEA will continue to work with Congress on a comprehensive bill that works for students and reflects the important federal role of ensuring equity while working with states and local school districts to support the public education system. Read NEA’s press release on the waivers.

Take Action Today:  Educators working in schools and classrooms across the country are the best and most effective voices to ensure a good ESEA reauthorization bill.  Your experience and expertise are critical to the debates in Congress and policymakers need to hear what you have to say.  Contact your Representative today to give your thoughts about what will work best for your students and school.

CHEERS AND JEERS


Cheers to:

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President Obama, who in his remarks announcing the waivers from No Child Left Behind praised teachers, saying, “Every single one of us can point to a teacher who in some way changed the course of our lives....A great teacher can help a young person escape poverty, allow them to dream beyond their circumstances.  So teachers matter.  And in an economy where employers are looking for the most skilled, educated workers, few people are going to have a bigger impact on that than the men and women who are in our classrooms.”

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House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform Ranking Member Elijah Cummings (D-MD), who at a hearing on unions this week argued against so-called “right to work laws” as really being “right to work less” laws. Representative Cummings also corrected the various anti-union misstatements at the hearing by clarifying that union political activity is funded by voluntary PAC contributions, not union dues.

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Representative Eleanor Holmes Norton (D-DC), who at the Committee on Oversight hearing praised workers in Wisconsin and Ohio who are fighting back against attacks on their collective bargaining rights.

thumbsup Representatives Dennis Kucinich (D-OH) and John Tierney (D-MA), who at the Committee on Oversight hearing spoke eloquently about how unions have improved the lives of workers.
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Representative Jo Ann Emerson (R-MO), who, in response to a direct question at a Republican-sponsored event this week expressed her support for President Obama’s recent appointments to the National Labor Relations Board, stating that she didn’t want politics to get in the way of getting needed work done. The pro-labor NLRB appointments have been criticized by some in the Republican Party.

Jeers to:

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House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform Chairman Darrell Issa (R-CA), who convened an anti-union hearing this week in which he wrongly stated that unions are taking money involuntarily from union workers for political donations and cited the 55 year old publication “The Enemy Within” about cleaning up corruption in labor unions.

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Representative Trent Gowdy (R-SC) who, at the Committee on Oversight hearing, incorrectly used an NEA video funded by voluntary contributions to the NEA Fund for Children and Public Education as an example of the involuntary use of member dues for political purposes.

2/3/12

HOW MUCH DO YOU SPEND OUT OF YOUR OWN POCKET FOR SCHOOL SUPPLIES? TELL CONGRESS TO EXTEND THE EDUCATOR TAX DEDUCTION


The $250 tax deduction for educators’ out of pocket classroom supply expenses expired at the end of 2011. While educators may still claim the deduction on their 2011 tax returns, unless Congress acts to extend the deduction, it will not be available in future years.

Educators often reach into their own pockets to purchase classroom supplies because they want to make sure students have what they need to succeed. Studies show that teachers are spending more of their own funds each year to supply their classrooms and purchase essential items such as pencils, glue, scissors, and facial tissues. Many are finding the need to reach into their own pocket has increased in these difficult economic times, as funding cuts lead to shortages in essential supplies and more students come to school without basic learning tools. Many educators must sacrifice other personal needs in order to pay for classroom supplies and instructional materials.

NEA is urging Congress to include an extension of the educator tax deduction in any deal reached to extend the payroll tax “holiday,” which expires at the end of this month.

Take Action Today: Urge Congress to extend the educator tax deduction as part of any payroll tax deal.

WORKERS’ RIGHTS UNDER ATTACK AGAIN!


Today, the House passed legislation to reauthorize the Federal Aviation Administration that includes anti-worker, anti-union provisions inserted at the last minute. See how your Representative voted. The provisions in question, which include voter suppression tactics and allowances for wholesale decertification of unions, would be devastating to workers’ rights and labor relations.  The Senate is expected to vote on the bill on Monday, February 6. Read NEA’s letter to the House.


Take Action Today!
  Tell your Senators to oppose the FAA bill if the anti-worker provisions remain.

ESEA REAUTHORIZATION: HEARING AND MARK-UP ON THE HORIZON


House Committee on Education and the Workforce Chairman John Kline has indicated his intent to hold a hearing the week of February 13 and a mark-up in late February on two new draft ESEA reauthorization proposals – the Student Success Act and the Encouraging Innovation and Effective Teachers Act.  Now is the time to weigh in and make sure educators’ voices are part of the debate.

NEA has a number of concerns about the House drafts. First and foremost, we are very concerned that the bills walk away from the critical federal role in ensuring equity in education for all students, regardless of income or special needs. Read more about troubling gaps affecting equity, access, and opportunity in the House bills. We are also very concerned with proposals to do away with requirements that states maintain their spending on education. And, we oppose provisions that would allow federal funds to flow to private schools through vouchers. Read more about the House bills, including a list of pros and cons.

Take Action Today:  Educators working in schools and classrooms across the country are the best and most effective voices to ensure a good ESEA reauthorization bill.  Your experience and expertise are critical to the debates in Congress and policymakers need to hear what you have to say.  Contact your Representative today to give your thoughts about what will work best for your students and school.

CHEERS AND JEERS


Cheers to:

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NEA member Sara Ferguson, who, after sitting in the First Lady’s box during the State of the Union last week, appeared this week on the “Ellen” show to talk about how she and her colleagues are standing up for students. Ms. Ferguson is an elementary math and literary teacher in Chester Upland, Pennsylvania, where officials recently told educators that there wouldn’t be enough money to pay them. Teachers and support staff agreed to continue working without pay for the sake of their students. Ellen DeGeneres presented Ms. Ferguson with a check for $100,000 for her school.

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President Obama, who in a speech this week at the University of Michigan talked about his belief that keeping alive the promise of the American Dream means making college affordable. Read more.

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The U.S. Department of Agriculture, which this week released new standards for school meals that will help ensure healthy nutritious food is served to every public school student in an effort to bolster their health and academic success. Read more.

Jeers to:

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Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney, who this week stated that he is “not concerned” about the very poor.

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Republican presidential candidate Newt Gingrich, who told voters in Florida that today’s college students are coddled—and spoke against college affordability programs.