Federal Legislative Update April 2012
WHO IS THE TEACHER OF THE YEAR?
Congratulations to Rebecca Mieliwocki, the 2012 National Teacher of the Year and NEA member, who was honored Tuesday by President Obama at a White House ceremony. Mieliwocki, an English teacher at Luther Burbank Middle School in Burbank, Calif., was awarded the prestigious title by the Council of Chief State School Officers (CCSSO) on Monday. CCSSO cited her bold and unconventional teaching practices during her 14-year teaching career.
“Rebecca is the definition of ‘above and beyond,’” President Obama said. “And so are many educators across the country. Every day, when teachers like you put in long hours, or dig into your own pockets to pay for school supplies, or tweak lessons so they’re even better than they were last year, you’re not just serving your schools or your students, you’re also serving your country. And you’re helping to preserve the basic promise of America, that no matter who you are, where you come from, what you look like, what your last name is, you can succeed. You can make it if you try, if you put in the effort.” Read more.
Rebecca Mieliwocki is just one of the millions of educators across the country who go above and beyond for their students. Educators are superheroes who come to the rescue every day. Help recognize educators who to encourage those individuals who work tirelessly towards for students’ futures by nominating a classroom superhero.
STOP THE TICKING TIME BOMB: KEEP COLLEGE AFFORDABLE
The fixed interest rate on federal subsidized student loans, held by nearly 8 million college students, is set to double on July 1 — from 3.4 to 6.8 percent. President Obama has asked Congress to block the rate increase. This week, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV) introduced the “Stop the Student Loan Interest Rate Hike Act” (S. 2343). Read NEA’s press release on stopping the rate hike.
Ensuring access to college is the best investment in America’s future. But, the scheduled interest rate hike would put higher education out of reach for many students. Students who take out loans to pay for college already graduate owing an average of $25,000. Those buried under the weight of student loan debt cannot buy homes or cars, start businesses or families, or invest, invent, innovate or otherwise contribute to economic recovery.
Keeping the interest rate low would save the average student over a thousand dollars. See how many students who go to school in your state would be affected by higher interest rates, and how much they will save over the life of their loan if Congress stops rates from doubling.
The debate in the coming weeks is likely to come down to how to pay for stopping the rate hike. Both Democrats and Republicans have come out in support of stopping the interest rate increase. As this document went to print, the House was scheduled to vote on a bill that would stop the rate hike, but would pay for it by repealing some provisions of the Affordable Care Act. Democrats were expected to oppose this offset.
Take Action Today:
- Tell Congress to act now to stop student loan interest rates from doubling.
- Tell us your story. Do you have a story to share about college debt? Would you have chosen a different career if you knew your interest rates would be doubled? Are you concerned about the financial realities of sending your own children to college? If you are a current student, what would doubled loan rates mean to you? Tell us your story and you may be featured in an upcoming Education Votes article.
TELL CONGRESS TO EXTEND THE EDUCATOR TAX DEDUCTION
The educator tax deduction, which provides tax relief for educators who reach into their own pockets to pay for classroom supplies, expired at the end of the 2011 tax year. This week, the House Ways and Means Committee held a hearing on extending this deduction along with other tax cuts. Read NEA’s testimony submitted to the Committee.
Educators often reach into their own pockets to purchase classroom supplies because they want to make sure students have what they need to succeed. Many educators 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. Educators are also using their own money more and more to help feed students who come to school hungry.
Take Action Today: Tell Congress to extend the educator tax deduction.
GLOBAL ACTION WEEK: SUPPORT EDUCATION FOR ALL
The importance of early childhood education for millions of children around the world took center stage this week on Capitol Hill, where lawmakers held an international briefing on the matter. The briefing coincided with Global Action Week, an international effort in more than 100 countries designed to underscore the critical link between education and the future of all children.
Global Action Week, which began on Sunday, April 22, and ends on Saturday, April 28, is sponsored by the Global Campaign for Education, which includes education-related groups like the National Education Association. This year’s campaign theme centers on early childhood education.
NEA and the Global Campaign for Education both support the Education for All Act. The bill seeks to ensure that U.S. policies help foster international efforts to provide all children with a quality basic education.
CHEERS AND JEERS
The United States Senate, which defeated an attempt by Senator Enzi (R-WY) to reverse a rule passed by the National Labor Relations Board that helps make union elections faster and easier. The attempted reversal, which required 60 votes to pass, failed by a vote of 45-54. See how your Senator voted. Cheers also to Senator Lisa Murkowski (R-AK), the only Republican to cross party lines to vote against the reversal and to President Obama, who had threatened a veto of the bill if it had passed.
Senators Tom Harkin (D-IA) and Kay Hagan (D-NC), who introduced the Protecting Financial Aid for Students and Taxpayers Act, which would help curb deceptive advertising and recruitment practices in the for-profit higher education industry. Read NEA’s letter supporting the bill.
Representative Pat Meehan (R-PA), who during a field hearing in his district said, “The vast majority of America’s teachers represent the best of what our country has to offer — caring, intelligent, and nurturing educators. America’s teachers everyday make incredible sacrifices through their undeterred commitment to learning and growing the minds and capabilities of generations of Americans. Every one of us owes our individual success to the dedication of our school teachers.
Representative Virginia Foxx (R-NC), who in a radio interview this week said, “I have very little tolerance for people who tell me that they graduate with $200,000 of debt or even $80,000 of debt because there’s no reason for that. We live in an opportunity society and people are forgetting that. I remind folks all the time that the Declaration of Independence says ‘life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.’ You don’t sit on your butt and have it dumped in your lap.”
WHY MUST PRESCHOOLERS PAY FOR CORPORATE TAX LOOPHOLES?
This week, millions of Americans filed their tax returns. At that same time, some of the country’s most successful corporations have yet to pay a cent in taxes. Thanks to a slew of tax loopholes that only the most successful corporations enjoy, a dozen mega corporations that made a total $175 billion in profits between 2008 and 2010 had a combined tax rate of negative 1.4 percent in that time period, according to a study by Citizens for Tax Justice. An NEA analysis of that data puts the estimated cost of those corporate tax subsidies over the past decade at $1.487 trillion. What could this lost revenue have meant for preschoolers, low-income children, students with disabilities, and college students struggling to pay rising tuitions?
- By investing just 24 percent of the revenue that would be generated by closing corporate tax loopholes every impoverished child under age five in America could attend a high-quality pre-school. Right now, less than 20 percent of eligible children are being served.
- By investing just 19 percent, every school in America could get, on average, half a million dollars for Title I support to help students from low-income families.
- By investing just 28 percent, the government could boost the maximum Pell Grant award so that it would cover half the average cost of a public college.
- By investing just 14 percent, the federal government could finally meet its unfulfilled promise to provide 40 percent of the cost of educating students with disabilities. Right now states are picking up where the federal government fall shorts of its obligation. With the revenue from corporate tax loopholes, each school district in America could save $1.5 million, freeing up local dollars for resources students need.
NEA is calling on policymakers to close corporate tax holes that are costing our schools and communities resources that would help the next generation achieve the American Dream. At a time when middle class Americans and small businesses are suffering, large, multi-national corporations are earning record profits and paying little to no money in taxes that are intended to support the communities where they do business.
Take Action Today: Tell Congress to stop putting kids’ futures in jeopardy to subsidize corporate America.
TAX FAIRNESS LEGISLATION BLOCKED IN SENATE
Closing corporate tax loopholes is one critical step in ensuring the resources necessary to help all students succeed. We must also make sure that everyone in our nation has a fair shot and that all pay their fair share toward economic recovery. This week, Senate Republicans blocked passed of the Paying a Fair Share Act. The bill, introduced by Senator Whitehouse (D-RI) would have implemented the “Buffet Rule” to ensure that millionaires and billionaires pay their fair share in taxes. In doing so, it would help choose the right vision for America — the one in which every American contributes to economic recovery and all have the hope and the help they need to succeed. Senator Susan Collins (R-ME) was the only Republican to cross Party lines to support this important legislation.
COLLEGE AFFORDABILITY: STOP STUDENT LOAN INTEREST RATES FROM DOUBLING!
The fixed interest rate on federal subsidized student loans, held by nearly 8 million college students, is set to double on July 1 — from 3.4 to 6.8 percent. President Obama has asked Congress to block the rate increase, but legislation to do so has stalled.
Raising student loan interest rates would be a significant burden when the economy is still fragile and students are taking on increasing amounts of debt to earn a degree. Keeping the interest rate at 3.4 percent would save the average student over a thousand dollars.
Take Action Today: Tell Congress to act now to stop student loan interest rates from doubling.
CHEERS AND JEERS
Senator Susan Collins (R-ME), who was the only Republican to vote in favor of the Paying a Fair Share Act (Buffet Rule).
Representative Richard Hanna (R-NY), who during visits to schools in his district over the congressional recess talked about the importance of science, technology, engineering, and math education and told students he is working on new legislation to help students who study these subjects.
Senator Mark Pryor (D-AR), who was the only Democrat to vote against the Paying a Fair Share Act (Buffet Rule).
Senator Joe Lieberman (I-CT), who although he didn’t vote on the Paying a Fair Share Act, released a statement opposing the bill.
|Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney, whose supposed shift in his campaign to focus on “jobs and kids” doesn’t match his proposed policies, and includes a statement that he would preserve the federal department of education in order to “push back” against teachers unions. Learn more.|
WATCH “THE HOLE” AND STAND UP FOR THE MIDDLE CLASS
What do corporate tax loopholes create? A hole in our budget that harms American families and students! Watch “The Hole" so you understand why NEA is calling on policymakers to close corporate tax holes that are costing our schools and communities resources that would help the next generation achieve the American Dream. At a time when middle class Americans and small businesses are suffering, large, multi-national corporations are earning record profits and paying little to no money in taxes that are intended to support the communities where they do business.
Instead of robbing children of opportunities and services they need to succeed, corporations must invest in future generations by paying their fair share. NEA is urging policymakers:
- At the federal level, to support revenue positive corporate tax reform by closing the seven largest corporate tax loopholes, which would provide an estimated $1.487 trillion in additional revenues over the next ten-years.
- At the state level, to support legislation that keeps corporations from shifting profits to low-tax burden states and require full disclosure of state and local incentives to corporations to ensure they pay their fair share to the states and communities where they do business.
Also on Tax Day, the Senate will vote on the Paying a Fair Share Act (S. 2230). The bill, introduced by Senator Whitehouse (D-RI) would implement the “Buffet Rule” to ensure that millionaires and billionaires pay their fair share in taxes. In doing so, it would help choose the right vision for America — the one in which every American contributes to economic recovery and all have the hope and the help they need to succeed.
Clarification: In our last Education Insider, our story on the Buffet Rule should have stated that billionaires whose income comes primarily from investments rather than salary are taxed at a lower rate than middle class working families, not that they pay less in actual tax dollars. Nearly one-quarter of all millionaires (about 55,000 taxpayers) pay a lower tax rate than millions of middle income taxpayers. Warren Buffett has famously said that he pays a lower tax rate than his secretary. Learn more about the Buffet Rule.
Take Action Today!
- Sign NEA’s petition to close corporate tax loop holes.
- Watch our short video, “The Hole,” on the danger of corporate tax loop holes.
- Check out our series of articles, “Defunding the American Dream: The real cost of corporate tax loopholes,” to find out more about how corporate tax loopholes are undermining the middle class and public education.
- Tell your Senators to vote YES on the Paying a Fair Share Act.
GO TO THE MOVIES, SAVE A LIFE: TAKE A STAND AGAINST BULLYING
Educators know that addressing bullying in our schools is critical to ensuring all children a safe learning environment free from harassment and intimidation. Bullying adversely affects students’ ability to participate in or benefit from educational programs and school activities.
This week, the powerful film “Bully” will be released nationwide. The film takes viewers inside the real lives of young people who day-in and day-out are tormented by bullies. It dispels forever the myth that "kids-will-be-kids" and bullying is a harmless rite of passage. On April 10, NEA hosted an advanced screening of the film, including a panel discussion with the film’s director and one of the students featured in the film.
Take Action Today: NEA is urging all educators to join our “Bully Free” campaign:
- Take the Bully Free pledge.
- Join students in the May 4 Stand Up to Bullying Day. To sign up go to stand4change.org.
- Read NEA’s press release about the Bully Free campaign.
- Watch NEA President Dennis Van Roekel being interviewed about bullying.
- Read NEA Vice President Lily Eskelsen’s latest blog post, “Go to the Movies, Save a Life.”
- Check out StopBullying.gov for resources you can use to prevent bullying.
- Urge Congress to pass legislation introduced by Senator Casey (D-PA) and Representative Sanchez (D-CA) to assist school districts and schools in thwarting bullying and harassment.
TELL THE SENATE TO CRAFT A BUDGET THAT PROTECTS CHILDREN, SENIORS, WORKING FAMILIES
As Congress returns from recess next week, the Senate Budget Committee is expected to begin consideration of a budget resolution for fiscal year 2013. The House has already passed a budget that attacks working families while protecting millionaires. The Senate has a chance to pass a budget that doesn’t shortchange our children and makes education as a top priority.
Take Action Today: Tell your Senators to support a budget that protects children, seniors, and working families.
SPECIAL EDUCATION SURVEY: SERVICE DELIVERY MODELS
NEA is collecting information from both general and special education members about changes (if any) in how students with disabilities are being provided special education instruction and services. This information will be useful as we prepare for the upcoming reauthorization of the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA). Please take a few moments to complete our brief survey.
CHEERS AND JEERS
President Obama, who spoke this week at Florida Atlantic University in support of the Buffet rule, saying, “There’s a debate going on in this country right now: Could we succeed as a nation where a shrinking number of people are doing really, really well, but a growing number are struggling to get by? Or are we better off when everybody gets a fair shot and everybody does a fair share, and everybody plays by the same set of rules?”
Representative Rosa DeLauro (D-CT), who wrote an op-ed in The Hill newspaper the food stamp program taking to task the House-passed Ryan budget for its cuts to food stamps. Representative DeLauro wrote “The Food Stamp Program is more than just a safety net to help families get back on their feet. It is an investment in our nation’s future. Countless studies have shown that kids with access to a nutritious breakfast learn more and perform better in school….We have to stand up for middle-class and working families, and support the programs that make our country a humane one.” One out of every five children in America is living in poverty, making the Food Stamp Program even more critical in these difficult times.
|U.S. District Judge William Conley, who ruled that Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker’s anti-collective bargaining law violated workers’ First Amendment rights by preventing public employee unions from collecting dues and requiring that they recertify annually.|
Arizona Governor Jan Brewer (R), who vetoed legislation that would have allowed a major expansion of school vouchers in her state, citing concerns about its costs and "artificially manipulating" the market of public and private schools.
Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney, who this week at a campaign stop in Rhode Island spoke against the Buffet rule, calling it “dividing America.”