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Federal Legislative Update June 2012

June 29, 2012
June 22, 2012
June 15, 2012
June 8, 2012
June 1, 2012

6/29/12

YOU DID IT!!! A WEEK OF VICTORIES FOR CHILDREN AND PUBLIC EDUCATION:


This week saw a number of major victories for children and public education – victories that will ensure that students can continue to pursue higher education, that families can continue to access affordable health care, and that rural counties can continue to provide education and other essential services.

STUDENT LOAN RATE HIKE STOPPED!


With just days to go before the final deadline, Members of Congress reached a deal to stop interest rates on student loans from doubling. The rates had been set to double on July 1, further overburdening millions of students who already incur massive debt to pay for college. The deal extends the current interest rate for one year.

This victory could not have been achieved without your strong advocacy. In the past two months, NEA cyber-lobbyists sent over 50,000 e-mail messages to Congress on this issue through NEA’s Legislative Action Center. In addition, you shared your stories, made phone calls, and visited Members of Congress. This pressure was absolutely critical to the victory.

CHILDREN THE BIG WINNERS AS AFFORDABLE CARE ACT UPHELD


Children were the big winners in this week’s Supreme Court’s decision to uphold the landmark Affordable Care Act. The 5-4 decision green-lights plans to expand coverage to 32 million Americans and ends the worst insurance company abuses, including discrimination against children with pre-existing conditions.

Health care reform is really is an education reform issue. Educators around the country know that students without health care coverage and regular medical treatment are more likely to fall behind in school—and ultimately this contributes to gaps in student learning and achievement. Now, with the health care reform law intact:

  • Dependents up to age 26 can rest easy knowing that their education or early working lives won’t be disrupted by a lack of coverage.
  • Children will no longer face the threat of being denied coverage by a health plan because of a pre-existing condition such as diabetes or asthma.
  • Retirees and people with disabilities can also breathe easier, knowing that improvements to Medicare, including better benefits such as free annual wellness visits and preventive services, cheaper prescription drugs, and provisions to strengthen the Medicare program, will remain intact.

The law still faces challenges, and opponents have vowed to seek congressional repeal.

Take action today. Tell Congress you support the Supreme Court decision and oppose any efforts to repeal the Affordable Care Act.

CRITICAL FUNDING FOR RURAL SCHOOLS EXTENDED


Also this week, Congress reached a deal for a one-year extension of extension of the critical Secure Rural Schools program. NEA worked very closely with key Members of Congress on both sides of the aisle to secure this important victory.

The deal provides $300 million nationwide for one year. Funds are used by federally-impacted counties that are unable to tax federal land use. The program helps fund schools in over 660 counties across the country.

This extension allows Congress additional time to continue working on a long-term sustainable solution without sacrificing students’ education, sustaining additional teacher layoffs, or reducing public services like libraries and public safety.

CHEERS AND JEERS


Cheers to:

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The United States Congress, who put partisan politics aside to craft a solution to address the student loan rate hike. In so doing, Members of Congress showed that they can reach bipartisan compromise for the benefit of the nation.

 

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Representative Greg Walden (R-OR), a member of the House Republican leadership, who tirelessly advocated publicly and behind the scenes for passage of the Secure Rural Schools program extension. Cheers also to Representative Peter DeFazio (D-OR), who was an early and consistent leader on the issue; to Senator Max Baucus (D-MT), who introduced the original amendment that ended up in the final deal; and to Senator Barbara Boxer (D-CA) who chaired the “conference committee” that crafted the final deal.

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The United States Supreme Court, which upheld the heart of President Barack Obama’s sweeping health care law, ensuring that millions of children and others will have the health care coverage they need.

Jeers to:

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Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney, who at a campaign stop in Virginia this week said that he wants to make sure that students get as much education “as they can afford.” Learn more. Further jeers to Mr. Romney for his response to the Supreme Court decision upholding the Affordable Care Act saying, “What the court did not do on its last day in session, I will do on my first day if elected president of the United States. And that is I will act to repeal Obamacare.”

6/22/12

DOWN TO THE WIRE: ONE WEEK BEFORE STUDENT LOAN INTEREST RATES RISE!


Student loan interest rates are scheduled to double on July 1. But, Congress STILL hasn’t acted to stop the rate hike! Millions of students, educators, and others across the country face insurmountable debt. But, policymakers continue to put politics ahead of real people. If Congress doesn’t act by July 1, students will face an average of $1,000 in additional debt on top of already overwhelming financial burdens.

Take Action Today:

  • Make a toll-free call to your Member of Congress. Dial 866-608-6355. You will hear recorded information with tips for talking to your elected officials. When you are ready, you’ll be put through to your official’s office. Feel free to share your story about how this rate increase would affect you!

TELL CONGRESS: BE FAIR! NO MORE CUTS TO EDUCATION!


In just six months, across the board funding cuts known as “sequestration” will go into effect unless Congress acts. These cuts are projected to result in a $4.8 billion reduction in education funding including:

  • A $1.2 billion cut to Title I that would impact almost 1.8 million students
  • A $973 million cut to IDEA special education that would affect almost a half million students, and
  • A $670 million cut to Head Start that would harm 80,000 young children.

These cuts would come on top of cuts that education and other non-defense programs sustained last year. Under last year’s Budget Control Act, non-defense spending like education took a huge hit as the source for the bulk of deficit reduction – a devastating blow to children, working families, and our most vulnerable populations.

It is absolutely critical that Congress hear a loud and clear message that non-defense discretionary programs like education CANNOT be cut more to satisfy debt reduction. Rather, deficit reduction must take a balanced approach that ensures that those most able to do so are asked to pay their fair share.

Take Action Today: Tell Congress to take a balanced approach to deficit reduction and reject more cuts to education.

JOIN THE JUNE 26 NATIONAL DAY OF ACTION TO PASS VIOLENCE AGAINST WOMEN ACT


Last month, the U.S. Senate passed the NEA-supported Violence against Women Reauthorization Act (S. 1925), which includes funding for services to previously underserved populations. But, action has stalled on the bill as the House has insisted on a watered-down version that limits services and adds obstacles for immigrant women, the LGBT community, and women on reservations.

On June 26, the National Task Force to End Sexual and Domestic Violence against Women will kick-off national days of action that will last until July 4 in support of the Violence against Women Act. During that period, activists from around the country will call and e-mail Congress, hold rallies, and more. Join the events and take a stand against domestic violence. Learn more at the National Task Force website and Facebook page.

CHEERS AND JEERS


Cheers to:

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Senators Patty Murray (D-WA) and John McCain (R-AZ), who worked out a deal and offered an amendment on the Senate floor to the Farm Bill that would require Congress to have all the available information about the impact of looming across-the-board “sequestration” cuts on programs like education and other non-defense programs as well as on defense programs. This information is critical to ensure that Congress takes a balanced approach to the budget. The Senate passed the amendment on a voice vote.

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Senator Kristen Gillibrand (D-NY), who offered an amendment on the Senate floor to the Farm Bill to restore funding proposed to be cut from the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program. This funding is essential to ensure that low-income families and children have access to an adequate, healthy diet. The amendment was rejected. See how your Senator voted.

Jeers to:

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Senator Marco Rubio (R-FL), who offered an amendment on the Senate floor to the Farm Bill that would undermine collective bargaining agreements. The amendment was rejected. See how your Senator voted.

6/15/12

OBAMA-NAPOLITANO ANNOUNCEMENT KEEPS OVER 800,000 DREAMS ALIVE


Today, President Obama and Secretary of Homeland Security Janet Napolitano announced that the Administration will stop deporting DREAM Act-eligible youth. The Administration will also review and grant, on a case-by-case basis, deferred action and work authorization to young people who are not in deportation proceedings and who meet the following criteria:

  • Entered the United States before the age of 16 and have not yet turned 30.
  • Have continuously lived in the United States for at least five years.
  • Are currently in school, have graduated from high school or obtained a GED, or have been honorably discharged from the Coast Guard or U.S. Armed Forces.
  • Have not been convicted of a felony offense, a significant misdemeanor offense, or multiple misdemeanor offenses.

Over 800,000 students will benefit from this decision, which means that over 800,000 dreams have a better chance of being fulfilled.  Preserving the ability for students in this country to go to school and on to college without fear of being ripped away from their US homeland is more than a victory for these students.  It is a victory for the country, because we will all be enriched by the talents and contributions of these young Americans. Read NEA President Dennis Van Roekel’s letter to President Obama and Secretary Napolitano.

WHAT ARE THEY WAITING FOR? ONLY TWO WEEKS LEFT FOR CONGRESS TO STOP STUDENT LOAN RATE HIKE!


With only two weeks left until student loan interest rates are scheduled to double, Congress still hasn’t acted to stop the rate hike! Millions of students, educators, and others across the country face insurmountable debt. But, policymakers continue to put politics ahead of real people. If Congress doesn’t act by July 1, students will face an average of $1,000 in additional debt on top of already overwhelming financial burdens.

Take Action Today:

AFFORDABLE HEALTH CARE: IT’S ABOUT CHILDREN!


The Supreme Court will hand down a decision on the future of the Affordable Care Act (ACA) later this month. If the high court does overturn President Obama’s historic law reforming health care, those who stand to lose the most will be the millions of children and young adults who have been helped by the legislation.

According to the Department of Health and Human Services, the ACA has provided care to 54 million people. That includes more than 14 million children who are receiving preventive services—like vision and hearing screens, immunizations, and developmental assessment. Many are also getting counseling to curb childhood obesity. The law also abolished lifetime dollar limits for benefits received by 28 million children and extended coverage to almost 14 million young adults, who were able to stay on or join their parents’ health plan.

Educators know how important access to good health care is for their students. If you’re an educator with a story about how the ACA benefits students in your school…speak up! Tell us your story.

CHEERS AND JEERS



Cheers to:

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President Obama, who growing increasingly impatient with a Congress frozen by partisan paralysis, ordered his administration to make it easier for more than a million students with federal student loans to cap their monthly payments at 10 percent of their discretionary income starting this year.

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The United States Senate, which rejected an amendment by Senator Paul (R-KY) that would have cut the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), formerly known as food stamps. Most SNAP recipients are children or seniors. Hungry children cannot learn, and access to an adequate and healthy diet is essential to academic success. See how your Senator voted.

Jeers to:

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Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney, who criticized President Obama’s jobs plan, saying we need fewer not more educators, firefighters, and police officers.

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Indiana Governor Mitch Daniels, who followed Mitt Romney’s disdainful remarks about educators, police officers, and firefighters by calling for the elimination of public sector unions representing these public servants.

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Senator Ron Johnson (R-WI), who offered an amendment in committee to the Financial Services appropriations bill to provide more funding for private school vouchers in the District of Columbia. Cheers to Senator Lisa Murkowski (R-AK), who was the only Republican to join all Democrats voting against the amendment.

 

06/08/12 

PENCILS? BOOKS? FOOD? WHAT DO YOU BUY FOR YOUR STUDENTS?


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 another 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.

SILENT MARCH TO END “STOP AND FRISK” POLICIES


Civil rights, faith, labor and community groups will hold a silent March on Sunday, June 17 to protest New York City’s “stop and frisk” policies. These policies have resulted in a dramatic increase in street stops of innocent youth and a growing distrust between the police force and the communities they are sworn to protect. In 2011, NYPD officers conducted 685,724 street stops. Nine out of 10 people stopped are totally innocent, meaning they are neither arrested nor ticketed. Read the NAACP press release about the March . More information about the March and the stop and frisk policies is available at http://www.silentmarchnyc.org/ .

THE COUNTDOWN CONTINUES: HUNDREDS OF STUDENTS MEET WITH CONGRESS ON STUDENT LOAN RATES


With less than a month until student loan interest rates are scheduled to double, hundreds of students from across the nation went to Capitol Hill to call for congressional action. The event, hosted by Campus Progress Action and a coalition of national partners including NEA, gave students a chance to put a human face on the issue for policymakers, sharing their personal stories of debt burden and its impact on their lives. Watch video and read more about this inspiring event.

Millions of students, educators, and others across the country face insurmountable debt. But, policymakers continue to put politics ahead of real people. If Congress doesn’t act by July 1, students will face an average of $1,000 in additional debt on top of already overwhelming financial burdens.

Take Action Today:

HOUSE COMMITTEE HOLDS MARK-UP ON WORKFORCE INVESTMENT


Reauthorization of the Workforce Investment Act (WIA) has been on the congressional “to-do” list since 2004. The Act, which was originally passed in 1998, provides a range of employment and training services designed to benefit employers, dislocated workers, and low-income youth. As the economy continues to struggle, many Americans find themselves in need of additional training and assistance. Displaced and unemployed workers need effective programs to help them develop the skills necessary for success in today’s job market. Community colleges play a critical role in the workforce development system – providing education and training to help workers develop the skills necessary to find and succeed in jobs of the 21st century.

This week, the House Education and the Workforce Committee held a “mark-up” on partisan legislation to reauthorize the Act. NEA supported some aspects of the bill, including a focus on assisting at-risk and out-of-school youth and the maintaining of the Perkins Career and Technical Education Act and the Rehabilitation Act. However, we had a number of concerns that we conveyed to the Committee , including proposed consolidation of programs that could lead to a reduction of funds and a lack of appropriate targeting of those funds to those who most need these services. NEA also conveyed to the Committee our strong concerns, shared with our labor partners, about the need to ensure the presence and voices of educators and labor in the WIA system. This includes representation on workforce boards for educators who provide training and services for community college students, at-risk youth, and adult education students. Read NEA’s full letter to the Committee .

CHEERS AND JEERS


Cheers to:

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Representative Michael Grimm (R-NY), who offered an amendment this week to a military construction bill to allow the Department of Defense to use project labor agreements (PLAs) on federal construction projects. Project labor agreements ensure that every employee has access to a fair wage, health care, and pension benefits so that he or she can support a family. Cheers also to the Republicans who supported working families by voting for the Grimm amendment: Representatives Judy Biggert (R-IL), Vern Buchanan (R- FL), Shelley Moore Capito (R- WV), Chip Cravaack (R- MN), Mario Diaz-Balart (R- FL), Bob Dold (R- IL), Jo Ann Emerson (R- MO), Bob Gibson (R- NY), Tim Huelskamp (R- KS), Timothy Johnson (R- IL), Peter King (R- NY), Adam Kinzinger (R- IL), Leonard Lance (R- NJ), Steven LaTourette (R- OH), Frank LoBiondo (R- NJ), Thaddeus McCotter (R- MI), David McKinley (R- WV), Patrick Meehan (R- PA), Tim Murphy (R- PA), Tom Petri (R- WI), Dave Reichert (R- WA), James Renacci (R- OH), Ileana Ros-Lehtinen (R- FL), Peter Roskam (R- IL), Jon Runyan (R- NJ), Jean Schmidt (R- OH), Aaron Schock (R- IL). John Shimkus (R- IL), Christopher Smith (R- NJ), Lee Terry (R- NE), Michael Turner (R- OH), Joe Walsh (R- IL), Don Young (R- AK).

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Senators Tom Harkin (D-IA) and Jack Reed (D-RI), who joined hundreds of students at a press conference calling for immediate action on the student loan interest rate crisis.

thumbsup U.S. District Court Judge Denise Page Hood, who ruled that the Michigan Legislature violated the constitutional rights of school employees and their unions prohibiting payroll deduction of union dues for school employees. The Court issued an injunction stopping implementation of the law, thereby ensuring that Michigan educators can exercise their right to free speech once again.

Jeers to:

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Republican Senators, who this week voted in block against the Paycheck Fairness Act, thereby stopping the bill from moving forward. The Paycheck Fairness Act would deter wage discrimination, particularly against women, by closing loopholes in the Equal Pay Act and barring retaliation against workers who disclose their own wages to coworkers. Without this bill, employers can penalize and even fire employees for talking about their salaries.

6/1/12

OUTRAGEOUS! $100,000 STUDENT LOAN DEBT ON EDUCATION SUPPORT PROFESSIONAL’S SALARY?

 

Less than one month remains until interest rates on federal student loans are scheduled to double.   Yet, as millions of students, educators, and others across the country face insurmountable debt, policymakers continue to put politics ahead of real people.   Consider these stories from real NEA members:

  • An administrative support employee in a Pennsylvania school district owes almost $100,000 on an associate’s degree in electronics. “I cannot see the end of that tunnel of debt,” she said. 
  • A 50-year-old kindergarten teacher in Massachusetts pays $550 a month for a student loan that will take her another 10 years to pay off.  As a first-year teacher (this is her second career), about 45 percent of her income goes to [all of her] loan payments. “How can I live on 50 percent of a teacher’s salary? How can I help my kids go to college? How can I save for my retirement? I don’t mind paying my fair share, but why are we doing nothing to make college accessible for decent, hard-working people who are just trying to better their lives and make a contribution?”
  • A speech language pathologist in Illinois has student loan payments that take exactly one of her two monthly paychecks! “I can not afford to buy a car or a house, and I consider myself one of the working poor. “ 
  • A highly-qualified New York teacher with degrees in special education, reading education, and chemical dependent counseling, owes a whopping $110,000 in student loans. “I will be paying this debt even when I retire from teaching in five years,” she said.
  • A Maryland teacher owes $190,000 (and earns just $56,000 a year.) “I will be dead in my grave and still owe money,” he said. “I have not owned a home or raised a family because of this crushing debt. It has destroyed my life for the last 20 years….” 

Read more stories

Last week, the Senate again failed to pass legislation to stop the rate hike.  But Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid has vowed to bring the bill up again in early June. 

Take Action Today: 

JOIN THE CRY FOR EQUALITY: TELL THE SENATE TO VOTE YES ON PAYCHECK FAIRNESS

 

Next week, the Senate is scheduled to vote on the Paycheck Fairness Act.  This important legislation, introduced by Senator Mikulski (D-MD), would deter wage discrimination by closing loopholes in the Equal Pay Act and barring retaliation against workers who disclose their own wages to coworkers. Without this bill, employers can penalize and even fire employees for talking about their salaries. This egregious practice leaves workers in the dark, preventing them from ever finding out about pay discrimination in the workplace.

In this tough economy, more and more families are counting on women’s earnings. Unfair pay practices make things even harder, especially for those families who rely solely on female earnings.  According to the U.S. Census Bureau, women who work full time still earn, on average, only 77 cents for every dollar men earn.

Take Action Today:  Tell the Senate to support the Paycheck Fairness Act.

CHEERS AND JEERS

 

Cheers to:

 

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Vice President Biden, who at a reception last week honoring activists (including four NEA members) said, “As I think about the union movement, the most critical thing it did is it brought average guys and women, like the stock I come from, to the bargaining table….It did more than just allow them to say, ‘We need higher wages,’ it allowed them to say, ‘I’m your equal—I warrant respect. I warrant being treated with dignity.’…Our single job, yours and mine, is to restore the dignity so many people have had stripped from them through no fault of their own….. They’re the people we’ve got to focus on, because guess what? When they do well, everyone does well.”  Read more about the NEA members honored by Vice President Biden

 

Jeers to:

 

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Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney, who during a visit to a Philadelphia charter school, said that said there was no correlation between classroom size and student performanceTell Mitt Romney how wrong he is!  E-mail the Romney Campaign and tell him that class size does matter!