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Federal Legislative Update September 2012

September 21, 2012
September 14, 2012
September 7, 2012

9/21/12

CAUTION: FISCAL CLIFF AHEAD — NEW REPORT CONFIRMS LOOMING DISASTER FOR EDUCATION


This week, the Office of Management and Budget (OMB) confirmed that the across-the-board cuts set to go into effect January 2 will have a devastating effect on public education. Unless Congress finds a more balanced approach to deficit reduction — one that asks the top two percent of earners to pay their fair share — students, schools, and the middle class will fall off a “fiscal cliff.”

OMB, which in part advises the President on the federal budget, released a 400—page report that called sequestration, the process that will trigger the automatic cuts, a “blunt and indiscriminate instrument” that would “undermine investments vital to economic growth; threaten the safety and security of the American people; and cause severe harm to programs that benefit the middle class, seniors, and children.”

The only way to avoid the indiscriminate, mandatory cuts is for lawmakers to agree to replace it with a balanced plan. Such a plan must include raising revenues from those most able to contribute to economic recovery — by allowing tax cuts for the wealthiest to expire and closing loopholes that let so many corporations avoid paying their fair share.

Congress is leaving Washington, DC and headed home. But they will return after the election to debate these critical issues. Now is the time to make our voices heard. We need to tell Congress that education and other critical programs cannot continue to bear the brunt of deficit reduction. The choice is stark: Congress can protect students and their education, or it can continue to coddle the wealthiest two percent and corporations that ship jobs overseas.

Take Action Today:

  • Tell Congress to take a balanced approach to deficit reduction and reject more cuts to education.
  • Visit your Members of Congress when they are back home campaigning. Tell them to stop the cuts to education and to make sure the top two percent pay their fair share.

WILL YOUR VOICE BE HEARD? TAKE PART IN NATIONAL VOTER REGISTRATION DAY ON SEPTEMBER 25


With restrictive new voter laws cropping up across the country, it is more important than ever to make sure you are registered to vote and ensure others in your community are ready as well! On September 25, more than 700 organizations and tens of thousands of volunteers in all 50 states will join together in a massive effort to register voters before Election Day.

In 2008, six million Americans didn’t vote because they missed a registration deadline or didn’t know how to register. Help us to ensure no one is left out this year by visiting www.NationalVoterRegistrationDay.org and getting involved in the campaign.

In addition, early voting will play a critical role in this year’s election. With voter registration deadlines fast approaching and numerous recent voting law changes, voters are urged to check with their state. The National Association of Secretaries of State maintains a website, www.canivote.org, with hyperlinks to individual states and information on, among other things, early voting, polling place locations and what kind of ID to bring.

Every vote counts! Exercise your Constitutional right by voting in November:

Visit NEA’s Education Votes Voter Protection site to learn about how you can protect the right to vote.

CHEERS AND JEERS


Cheers to:

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President Obama, who in a speech to the Ohio AFL-CIO this week said, “We want to restore that basic bargain in America that says if you work hard, you can make it, that says if you're acting responsibly and looking after your family, and willing to put in the effort, you can afford a home that you can call your own, you have a job that pays the bills, that you won't have to worry about going bankrupt if you get sick, that you'll be able to retire with some dignity and some respect. And you'll be able to save up enough to help your kids do even better than you did. That's what the union movement's been about. That's what America has been about.”

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Representatives Terri Sewell (D-AL) and Spencer Bachus (R-AL) who publicly supported an Alabama referendum withdrawing $437 million from a trust fund to help balance the state’s General Fund budget for the next three years and avoid more deep cuts. Special cheers to Alabama voters, who pushed back on more austerity measures, and approved the referendum by a 2 to 1 margin, thereby avoiding dramatic cuts to state government. Passage of the referendum will help maintain essential services, protect Medicaid recipients, and reduce the likelihood of cuts to education as a budget balancing measure.

Jeers to:

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Republican Presidential candidate Mitt Romney, who summarily dismissed 47 percent of Americans, saying “There are 47 percent ... who are dependent on government ... who believe they are entitled to health care, to food, to housing, to you name it” and that “it is not my job is not to worry about” people who won’t “take personal responsibility and care for their lives.” In reality, the “47 percent” includes students receiving loans to attend college; working families who don’t earn enough to owe income taxes but who do pay payroll taxes, sales taxes, etc.; retired seniors receiving Social Security and Medicare; and former members of the military receiving health care through the Departments of Defense or Veterans Affairs.

 

9/14/12 

WE NEED YOUR HELP TODAY TO STOP EDUCATION CUTS!


Will you join the fight to protect public education? The potential picture is frightening:

  • Services cut or eliminated for more than nine million students
  • Title I, special education, and Head Start slashed
  • Class sizes ballooning
  • After-school programs gone
  • Programs for our most vulnerable — homeless students, English Language Learners, and high-poverty, struggling schools decimated
  • Financial aid for college students slashed
  • Over 80,000 education jobs lost — at early childhood, elementary and secondary, and postsecondary levels.

This is not what our students deserve and it is not what our nation needs for economic recovery and global competitiveness. Yet, unless Congress stops the impending “sequester” cuts and instead implements a balanced approach to deficit reduction, this bleak picture will become reality. Unfortunately, Congress continues to head down the wrong path, as this week the House passed legislation that would protect defense programs from sequester cuts, but force even deeper cuts in education and other non-defense programs.

Congress is likely only in session for one more week, but they will return after the election to debate these critical issues. Now is the time to make our voices heard. We need to tell Congress that education and other critical programs cannot continue to bear the brunt of deficit reduction. We need to demand a balanced approach — one that protects the middle class and asks the top two percent of earners in this nation to pay their fair share. The choice is stark: Congress can protect students and their education, or it can continue to coddle the wealthiest two percent and corporations that ship jobs overseas.

Take Action Today:

HIGHER EDUCATION IN THE SPOTLIGHT AT TWO CONGRESSIONAL HEARINGS


Higher education took the spotlight this week as two different congressional hearings highlighted stark differences in policymakers support for students and faculty. A hearing in the Senate Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions Committee, chaired by Senator Harkin (D-IA) focused on states’ efforts to address college affordability. Read NEA’s letter to the Committee in advance of the hearing and learn more about the hearing. The hearing marked the third time this year the Committee examined college affordability, in addition to numerous hearings on the challenges for students and the cost to taxpayers of the for-profit college industry, making postsecondary education a major Committee focus this year.

In contrast, two House subcommittees — the Subcommittee on Health, Employment, Labor, and Pensions chaired by Representative Roe (R-TN) and the Subcommittee on Higher Education and Workforce Training chaired by Representative Foxx (R-NC) — attacked the rights of higher education faculty and graduate students to organize and bargain collectively. Read NEA’s letter to the Committee in advance of the hearing. In his statement, Chairman Roe argued against union rights stating, “Proliferation of union contracts on college campuses would severely limit an institution’s flexibility, potentially putting union bosses in charge of everything from how professors are evaluated for tenure to the subject matter and number of courses each faculty member may teach.” Chairwoman Foxx agreed, stating, “Above all, the [National Labor Relations Board’s] activism in America’s higher education system would have a detrimental effect on students, who, in addition to costlier tuition, would likely face reduced academic opportunities.” Democrats on the Committee, including Representatives Andrews (D-NJ) and Miller (D-CA) contested these statements, arguing that there is no evidence that collective bargaining lower education quality or impacts academic freedom.

REMINDER: TELL US ABOUT YOUR CONVERSATIONS WITH MEMBERS OF CONGRESS


As educators, your expertise and experience are critical pieces to any debate on education policy. The best way to make your voice heard is to talk directly with your Members of Congress. There is no substitute for a putting a human face (yours and your students’) on the issues policymakers are addressing.

We want to celebrate your success! If you talk to your Member of Congress informally or at a formal meeting, please let us know. You might be featured in an upcoming edition of the Ed Insider.

CHEERS AND JEERS


Cheers to:

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Representative Rob Andrews (D-NJ) and Representative George Miller (D-CA), both of whom spoke passionately in support of union rights on college campuses at a hearing this week held to attack those same rights. Both Representatives called into question assertions at the hearing that collective bargaining harms students and impeded academic freedom, demanding to see any evidence to support such claims. Cheers also to Representative Andrews for his remarks at the hearing calling for focus on the issues that matter — jobs, the economy, and tax fairness — rather than on attacking workers’ rights.

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Senator Tom Harkin (D-IA), Chair of the Senate Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions Committee, who this week continued his focus on making college affordable for all students by holding his Committee’s third hearing to address college costs.

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Representative Rush Holt (D-NJ), who in a speech on the House floor this week said, “Our main priority in the House of Representatives must be to support middle class families. It should not be to protect the wealthiest 2 percent of Americans by extending the so-called Bush tax cuts for them. As a body, we should work together to make our nation's tax system more equitable while continuing to support the middle class.”

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Representative Joe Courtney (D-CT), who in a speech on the House floor this week said, “When you actually invest in the middle class, when you make sure that middle class families have the tools to raise their family, to educate their children, to cover their health care needs, to buy a house and afford a house, to provide the means so that seniors over 65 won't be bankrupted by health care bills, the fact of the matter is that's the formula for success for growth in this country.”

Jeers to:

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The House of Representatives, which rather than seeking a balanced approach to deficit reduction passed a bill this week by Representative Allen West (R-FL) that would protect defense programs from sequester cuts, but cut even deeper from education and other non-defense programs. See how your Representative voted.

 

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Representatives Phil Roe (R-TN) and Virginia Foxx (R-NC), who chaired a joint hearing this week entitled, “Expanding the Power of Big Labor: The NLRB’s Growing Intrusion into Higher Education,” during which they attacked the National Labor Relations Board and expressed their opposition to union rights for college faculty and staff.

 

9/7/12

OUR CHILDREN’S FUTURE AT STAKE: ACT TODAY TO STOP EDUCATION CUTS!


Unless Congress acts soon, devastating “sequestration” cuts to education and other critical programs will go into effect on January 2, 2013. When Congress returns next week, they will face a clear choice — to allow these cuts to proceed, harming students, families, communities, and our nation, or to take a balanced approach to reducing the deficit by asking the top two percent to pay their fair share.

The sequester cut would dramatically impact 9.35 million students by eliminating services, cutting financial aid and increasing class sizes. As many as 80,500 jobs could be lost in early education, K-12 and postsecondary education.

These cuts would come on top of cuts that Congress already leveled on education and other non-defense programs for the next decade under last summer’s debt law. 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:

A CLEAR CHOICE: POLITICAL CONVENTIONS DRAW SHARP CONTRASTS ON EDUCATION


Over the past few weeks, the Republican and Democratic National Conventions highlighted the very real, high-stakes choice Americans will face this November. The outcome of the election will impact education and the future of the middle class— determining whether all students will have the supports and resources necessary to succeed, whether educators will be respected and ensured a voice in what happens in their schools, and whether the middle class will continue to bear the disproportionate burden for economic recovery.

Speakers at the Democratic Convention focused on education as the pathway to a better life and a stronger nation, and the need to support middle class families struggling to make ends meet. And, they spoke of their respect for educators and other public servants who dedicate their lives to serving their nation:

  • President Obama said, “I don’t believe that firing teachers or kicking students off financial aid will grow the economy, or help us compete with the scientists and engineers coming out of China…“[Y]ou have a choice — we can gut education, or we can decide that in the United States of America, no child should have her dreams deferred because of a crowded classroom or a crumbling school. No family should have to set aside a college acceptance letter because they don’t have the money.”
  • Recalling a lesson she and her husband, President Barack Obama, learned from their parents, Michelle Obama said: “We learned about gratitude and humility — that so many people had a hand in our success, from the teachers who inspired us to the janitors who kept our school clean. And we were taught to value everyone’s contribution and treat everyone with respect.”
  • Former President Bill Clinton in his remarks praised President Obama his support of community colleges and his efforts to make college affordable for all, noting “The President has supported community colleges and employers in working together to train people for open jobs in their communities. And…his student loan reform lowers the cost of federal student loans and even more important, gives students the right to repay the loans as a fixed percentage of their incomes for up to 20 years. That means no one will have to drop-out of college for fear they can't repay their debt, and no one will have to turn down a job, as a teacher, a police officer or a small town doctor because it doesn't pay enough to make the debt payments. This will change the future for young Americans.”

The Democratic platform approved at the Convention calls for listening to teachers, stating, “We Democrats honor our nation’s teachers, who do a heroic job for their students every day. If we want high-quality education for all our kids, we must listen to the people who are on the front lines.” The platform also calls for preventing teacher layoffs, attracting and rewarding great teachers, turning around low-performing schools, helping keep college within reach for every student, and investing in community colleges.

In contrast, speakers at the Republican National Convention spared little opportunity to heap blistering criticism on public education, educators and the unions that represent them. Leading the way in bashing public education and teacher unions was New Jersey Governor Chris Christie. Other featured speakers at the convention were Vice Presidential candidate Paul Ryan, whose budget proposal would impose severe cuts on education, health care and other programs and services that serve students and children in order to give even more deep tax cuts to millionaires, and governors Scott Walker of Wisconsin and John Kasich of Ohio, both of whom have spearheaded efforts to slash funding to schools and take away the right of educators to speak out on behalf of their students through collective bargaining.

The platform approved at the Republican Convention by the party and the Romney-Ryan ticket continued to advance misguided proposals that are contrary to what educators know firsthand works best for students. Specifically, the platform supports diverting money from public schools for private school vouchers and allowing states to decide how to spend federal funds targeted at poor students and students with disabilities, an approach that ignores the historic federal role of addressing inequities, and the current trend among states to cut funding for education services for children with special needs.

Take Action Today:

SHARE YOUR SUCCESSES: TELL US ABOUT YOUR CONVERSATIONS WITH MEMBERS OF CONGRESS


Did you see your Member of Congress in August at a back-to-school event, a Labor Day picnic, a townhall meeting, your local supermarket, or somewhere else? Did you talk to him/her about the issues that are important to your family and your students? We know that NEA members are the best advocates for public education and educators! Now, we want to spread the word. Share your successes by telling us about your conversations with Members of Congress. You might be featured in an upcoming edition of the Ed Insider.

CHEERS AND JEERS


Cheers to:

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President Barack Obama, who in his speech to the Democratic National Convention called for recruiting 100,000 math and science teachers in the next ten years, improving early childhood education, and giving two million workers the chance to learn skills at their community college that will lead directly to a job.

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Vice President Joe Biden, who said in his speech before the Democratic National Convention, “They seem to think you create a culture of dependency when you provide a bright, young, qualified kid from a working-class family a loan to get to college, or when you provide a job-training program in a new industry for a dad who lost his job because it was outsourced. ….[A]ll these men and women are looking for is a chance, just a chance to acquire the skills to be able to provide for their families so they can once again hold their heads high and lead independent lives with dignity. That's all they're looking for.”

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Elizabeth Warren, United States Senate candidate from Massachusetts, who in her speech before the Democratic National Convention said in part, “I graduated from public schools and taught elementary school….This is a great country. I grew up in an America that invested in its kids and built a strong middle class; that allowed millions of children to rise from poverty and establish secure lives. An America that created Social Security and Medicare so that seniors could live with dignity; an America in which each generation built something solid so that the next generation could build something better. But for many years now, our middle class has been chipped, squeezed, and hammered. Talk to the construction worker I met from Malden, Massachusetts, who went nine months without finding work. Talk to the head of a manufacturing company in Franklin trying to protect jobs but worried about rising costs. Talk to the student in Worcester who worked hard to finish his college degree, and now he’s drowning in debt. Their fight is my fight, and it’s Barack Obama’s fight too.”

Jeers to:

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Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney, who at a campaign stop last month, articulated his belief that school bus drivers, and by extension all education support professionals, play no role in student achievement. When a child makes the honor roll, Romney said, “I realize to get to school they’ve got to go on a bus. And the bus driver is driving the bus. But when [the student] makes the honor roll, I don’t credit the bus driver. I credit the kid who got the honor roll.” Romney’s mean-spirited speech went on to degrade several other categories of public employees.

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New Jersey Governor Chris Christie, who at the Republican National Convention took aim at educators and their unions, saying “They said it was impossible to speak the truth to the teachers union. They were just too powerful. Real teacher tenure reform that demands accountability and ends the guarantee of a job for life regardless of performance would never happen.” He went on, “They [Democrats] believe in pitting unions against teachers, educators against parents, and lobbyists against children.” Playing to the argument that teachers are separate and apart from the unions that they themselves created and lead, Christie said, “They believe in teachers unions. We believe in teachers.”