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Federal Legislative Update January 2013

 

January 25, 2013
January 18, 2013
January 11, 2013

1/25/13

CONGRESS NEEDS TO HEAR FROM YOU TODAY: TELL THEM SOME CUTS NEVER HEAL


I am a fourth grade teacher in Virginia. Currently our school district lacks funding to implement a full day Kindergarten program. Our Kindergartners attend a half day program which is not adequate. Many of our buildings lack space and supplies to implement a full time program as well as funding for additional teachers. As a fourth grade teacher I see children, who by the time they reach me, are a full year or two behind in reading. Having a full time schedule would allow Kindergarten teachers the opportunity to teach reading more in-depth….Supply budgets barely cover the cost of teaching for a month. I am allowed ten dollars a student for the entire year! — NEA Member, Virginia

In March of 2010 our school board laid off 78 teachers, eliminating art, music, physical education, foreign language, Family and Consumer Science, and learning centers. Students now have a day where they don't leave their classroom except to go to lunch. Student test scores are lower than the previous year. These children are missing out on the type of education that other children in the community had. — NEA Member, Illinois

As Congress returns to work, more cuts to education and other critical programs loom. The across-the-board cuts, delayed for only two months under the early January “fiscal cliff” deal, would be devastating for students, educators, seniors, and working families.

Stopping these cuts will be an uphill battle. The only way we will win is if we personalize the impact of the cuts, with stories like those profiled above. We know that the impending cuts will be harshest on the students who are in most need of help and can least afford to take more hits, including students in high poverty communities and students with disabilities. But, we need to show Members of Congress how real students in real schools would be hurt. We ask you to share your storytell us how education cuts would impact your students and your school.

Take action today:

  • Call Congress, using our Educator Connector Line, 1.866.293.7278, to urge elected officials to protect education, Medicaid, Medicare, and Social Security.
  • Take the “Kids Not Cuts” pledge today-- to speak up for America’s kids and working families, and to make sure the new Congress makes the right choices. Already took the pledge? Share it with at least five friends and ask them to join the fight to stand up for America’s kids and working families.

ENOUGH IS ENOUGH: STOP THE VIOLENCE AND PROTECT OUR CHILDREN


This week, we watched the all-too-familiar images of gun violence at yet another school — this time at Lone Star College in Texas. At the same time, concerned people across the nation are demanding action to stem the tide of gun violence and keep our children safe. On Thursday, Senator Dianne Feinstein (D-CA) introduced legislation to renew a ban on assault weapons and high-capacity magazines. The assault weapons ban was law for ten years before expiring in 2004, when Congress failed to renew it.

NEA believes banning assault weapons is one critical piece of a multi-pronged approach that includes meaningful action on preventing gun violence but also bullying prevention and much greater access to mental health services, so educators and families can identify problems and intervene before it’s too late. In a letter to Vice President Biden earlier this month, NEA outlined a proposal that, while including sensible gun safety recommendations, focuses on truly preventive measures, including greater access to mental health services, plus the infrastructure, training and programs that will ensure safe learning environments for the nation’s children.

Take Action Today:

  • Share your personal experiences. Lawmakers need to know the real impact of this violence in our schools and classrooms. Please help by sharing with us what you think lawmakers in Washington, DC should do to address these tragic shootings. Have you or has your school been touched by gun-related violence? What have your experiences been as educators having to talk about these tragedies with your students? Share your thoughts and ideas by sending them to edinsider@nea.org.

PAYCHECK FAIRNESS ACT RE-INTRODUCED: TELL CONGRESS TO STAND UP FOR FAIR PAY


In his inaugural speech, President Obama said “For our journey is not complete until our wives, our mothers, and daughters can earn a living equal to their efforts.” This week, Congress took a critical step toward this goal with the re-introduction by Senator Barbara Mikulski (D-MD) and Representative Rosa DeLauro (D-CT) of the Paycheck Fairness Act. This bill would deter wage discrimination by updating the nearly 50-year-old Equal Pay Act, in part by barring retaliation against workers who disclose their own wages to coworkers. Currently, no federal law broadly prohibits employers from penalizing and even firing employees just for talking about their salaries.

Take Action Today: Tell your Members of Congress to cosponsor and speak out in favor of the Paycheck Fairness Act.

CHEERS AND JEERS


Cheers to:

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President Obama, who said in his inaugural speech, “For we, the people, understand that our country cannot succeed when a shrinking few do very well and a growing many barely make it. We believe that America’s prosperity must rest upon the broad shoulders of a rising middle class. We know that America thrives when every person can find independence and pride in their work; when the wages of honest labor liberate families from the brink of hardship….We, the people, still believe that every citizen deserves a basic measure of security and dignity. We must make the hard choices to reduce the cost of health care and the size of our deficit. But we reject the belief that America must choose between caring for the generation that built this country and investing in the generation that will build its future…. We recognize that no matter how responsibly we live our lives, any one of us at any time may face a job loss, or a sudden illness, or a home swept away in a terrible storm. The commitments we make to each other through Medicare and Medicaid and Social Security, these things do not sap our initiative, they strengthen us. They do not make us a nation of takers; they free us to take the risks that make this country great.”

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Senate Budget Chair Patty Murray (D-WA), who released a statement this week saying, “Democrats are eager to contrast our pro-growth, pro-middle class budget priorities with the House Republicans’ Ryan budget that would end Medicare as we know it, gut investments in jobs and programs middle class families depend on, and cut taxes for the wealthiest Americans and biggest corporations….So if Republicans are truly interested in moving this debate back into the Budget Committees and back to regular order then they ought to actually deliver on that rhetoric. That means putting a stop to the debt limit hostage-taking, ending the constant brinksmanship, and truly engaging in an honest effort to work with us toward the balanced and bipartisan budget deal the American people expect and deserve.”

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Senator Lisa Murkowski (R-AK), who made comments that raising the tax rate on some of the nation’s wealthiest individuals should be a part of the solution to the national debt problem saying, “I have been suggesting for a period of time now that I think it is worth a discussion, consideration, to look at the highest earners.’

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Senator Dianne Feinstein (D-CA), who this week re-introduced gun violence prevention legislation to ban assault weapons and high-capacity magazines.

1/18/13

NOW IS THE TIME: STOP THE VIOLENCE AND PROTECT OUR CHILDREN

As our nation continues to heal from the latest horrific gun violence that claimed the lives of children and their heroic teachers, President Obama and Vice President Biden this week unveiled a sweeping series of proposals to help stem the tide of violence. The president has proposed action in several key areas:

  • Closing background check loopholes to keep guns out of dangerous hands;
  • Banning military-style assault weapons and high-capacity magazines, and taking other common-sense steps to reduce gun violence;
  • Making our schools safer, not only by enhancing their physical security and making sure they are prepared to respond to emergencies like a mass shooting, but also by creating safer and more nurturing school climates that help prevent school violence; and
  • Improving mental health services.

The President’s plan for school safety recognizes that “each school is different and should have the flexibility to address its most pressing needs” and that districts should be able to choose what is best to protect their own students. Read the President’s full plan.

NEA praised the President’s proposals. We believe in a multi-pronged approach that includes meaningful action on preventing gun violence but also bullying prevention and much greater access to mental health services, so educators and families can identify problems and intervene before it’s too late. Read NEA’s full statement in response to the President’s plan. The presidential recommendations are in line with the views of NEA members. A new NEA member poll released this week indicates overwhelming support for stronger gun violence prevention laws, including background checks and bans on assault weapons and high-capacity magazine clips.

While some pieces of the President’s plan will be enacted through Executive Order, the major pieces must be passed by Congress.

Take Action Today:

  • Tell Congress enough is enough—we cannot allow even one more child to die from senseless gun violence. E-mail your Members of Congress and tell them to act immediately to pass the President’s proposals.
  • Share your personal experiences. Lawmakers need to know the real impact of this violence in our schools and classrooms. Please help by sharing with us what you think lawmakers in Washington, DC should do to address these tragic shootings. Have you or has your school been touched by gun-related violence? What have your experiences been as educators having to talk about these tragedies with your students? Share your thoughts and ideas by sending them to edinsider@nea.org.

TELL CONGRESS: KIDS NOT CUTS

The fiscal cliff deal passed earlier this month partially reduced and delayed pending across-the-board cuts for two months. These deep, arbitrary cuts, if allowed to go into effect, will be devastating to the programs and services that ordinary Americans depend on, including education, transportation, public safety, medical research, and environmental protection.

The cuts to education alone could still exceed $3 billion just in 2013. Discretionary programs have already borne a disproportionate share of deficit reduction—taking a $1.5 trillion hit in the past few years. Instead of demanding that wealthy corporations pay their fair share, some in Congress want to continue placing the heaviest burden on the middle class, students, and vital services.

Stopping these cuts will be an uphill battle. The only way we will win is if we personalize the impact of the cuts. We know that the impending cuts will be harshest on the students who are in most need of help and can least afford to take more hits, including students in high poverty communities and students with disabilities. But, we need to show Members of Congress how real students in real schools would be hurt. We ask you to share your story—tell us how education cuts would impact your students and your school.

Take action today:

THIRD ANNIVERSARY OF “CITIZENS UNITED” COURT DECISION: FIND AN EVENT NEAR YOU THIS WEEKEND TO DEMAND “MONEY OUT, VOTERS IN!”

The weekend of January 19, 2013, is Martin Luther King, Jr.’s birthday and the anniversary of the U.S. Supreme Court’s ruling in Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission. That controversial ruling said that corporations can spend unlimited sums to influence our elections.
On January 19, 2013, and the days surrounding it, join activists in your area to unite two powerful messages calling for a more just and democratic nation. First, to honor MLK Day, demand the right for everyone to vote without obstruction. Second, to protest the Citizens United ruling on its third anniversary, join the nationwide call to get big money out of politics and enact free and fair elections in America.

Take Action Today:

REMINDER TAKE OUR CYBER-LOBBYIST SURVEY AND TELL US WHAT ISSUES MATTER MOST TO YOU

If you haven’t already done so, please take just a few moments to fill out our very brief survey. As the 113th Congress begins, your voice will be more critical than ever. Education activists like you are the key to our success in advancing pro-public education policies. Please help us make sure we are providing you with the information you want on the issues that matter most to you, your family, your students, and your community. Please complete our very brief survey to help us tailor information to meet your interests.

Take Action Today: Fill out our brief cyber-lobbyist survey to let us know what issues matter most to you.

CHEERS AND JEERS

Cheers to:

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President Obama and Vice President Biden, who moved swiftly and presented concrete, bold steps to keep children safe and begin addressing gun violence in America.

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President Obama, who in a press conference this week said with relation to the nation’s debt ceiling, “[W]e’ve got to pay our bills. And Republicans in Congress have two choices here. They can act responsibly, and pay America’s bills, or they can act irresponsibly and put America through another economic crisis. But they will not collect a ransom in exchange for not crashing the American economy. The financial wellbeing of the American people is not leverage to be used. The full faith and credit of the United States of America is not a bargaining chip. And they better choose quickly, because time is running short.”

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Senator Lisa Murkowski (R-AK), who said she does not think the debt ceiling should be political leverage to cut government spending, saying, “If you incur an obligation, you have a responsibility to pay for that.”

thumbsup Senator Susan Collins (R-ME), who also said through her spokesperson, “Senator Collins recognizes that the debt ceiling is going to have to be raised because the U.S. cannot default on its obligations to pay for spending that has already occurred.”
thumbsup Senator Patty Murray (D-WA), new Chair of the Senate Budget Committee, who wrote in an op-ed this week, “Democrats have been very clear that we are willing to make tough compromises in the context of a balanced and bipartisan budget deal. But just like last year, we are going to fight to make sure that any deal we make is fair for the middle class. That’s what the American people clearly called for last November, and we are not going to stop. So if Republicans are so committed to protecting every one of these tax breaks for the wealthiest Americans and biggest corporations, and they are determined to balance the budget simply by cutting Social Security, Medicare and other programs for seniors, the middle class and most vulnerable families, then they are going to prevent us from getting a deal and we are going to feel the impact of sequestration in March.”

Jeers to:

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Senator Marco Rubio (R-FL), who said in response to the President’s plan to address gun violence, “President Obama is targeting the 2nd Amendment rights of law-abiding citizens instead of seriously addressing the real underlying causes of such violenceÉ.Guns are not the problem; criminals with evil in their hearts and mentally ill people prone to violence areÉ. As a strong defender of the 2nd Amendment, I will oppose the President’s attempts to undermine Americans’ constitutional right to bear arms.”

 

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Representative Tim Huelskamp (R-KS), who issued a sharply-worded retort to the President’s proposals to address gun violence, saying, “The Second Amendment is non-negotiable. The right to bear arms is a right, despite President Obama’s disdain for the Second Amendment and the Constitution’s limits on his power. Congress must stand firm for the entirety of the Constitution—even if, but particularly so, when President Obama seeks to ignore his obligation to ‘preserve, protect, and defend the Constitution of the United States.’ Taking away the rights and abilities of law-abiding citizens to defend themselves is yet another display of the Obama Administration’s consolidation of power.”

 

 


 1/11/13

STUDENTS, EDUCATORS, FAMILIES GRIEVE—WE MUST RAISE OUR VOICES

Paducah, Jonesboro, Springfield, Littleton, Santee, Tucson, Red Lake, Nickel Mines, Blacksburg, Dekalb, Huntsville, Chardon, Newtown, and now Taft. Sadly, this list of school shootings isn’t complete, but the names of these cities and towns remind us all of the devastating losses we have suffered as part of the education family.

As our California crisis teams helps the families, students, educators, and community of Taft cope with another senseless school shooting, Vice President Biden is leading an Administration Task Force to explore potential federal actions to address these tragic events.

As educators, your stories and ideas are essential to this process. We need to raise our collective voices to keep our students and communities safe. President Obama has stated, “there is no single piece of legislation that will solve this problem.” In a joint statement immediately following the Newtown tragedy, NEA and AFT called for a multi-pronged approach.

Lawmakers need to know the real impact of this violence in our schools and classrooms. Please help by sharing with us what you think lawmakers in Washington, DC should do to address these tragic shootings. Have you or has your school been touched by gun-related violence? What have your experiences been as educators having to talk about these tragedies with your students? Share your thoughts and ideas by sending them to edinsider@nea.org.

EDUCATORS AND PUBLIC EDUCATION SUPPORTERS SWORN IN WITH 113TH CONGRESS

The 113th Congress was sworn in on January 3, 2012, with a strong contingent of educators and public education champions among its ranks. Joining the new Congress are NEA members Mark Takano (D-CA); a Language Arts and Social Studies teacher at Rialto High School in Riverside, CA; and Kyrsten Sinema (D-AZ)—a former social worker in Arizona’s Washington school district who is continuing to teach at Arizona State University. Former NEA member and high school teacher Tim Walz (D-MN) has also returned for another congressional term, as has Dan Maffei (D-NY), who most recently taught at SUNY College of Environmental Science and Forestry.

Public education champions have also secured key positions that will allow them to work actively on education issues. Three such champions Ð new Senators Tammy Baldwin (D-WI), Elizabeth Warren (D-MA), and Chris Murphy (D-CT) Ð will serve on the Senate Health Education, Labor and Pensions Committee, where they will address issues such as teacher quality and training, early childhood education, education for students with disabilities, the Elementary and Secondary Education Act, vocational and technical education, and the Higher Education Act. Read more.

These educators and education champions will face a full agenda of issues of great importance to educators, including stopping more cuts to education, promoting equity and social justice, and taking immediate action to address the unacceptable gun violence that has plagued our nation. They will need the support and activism of educators across the nation to protect and strengthen public education. Watch this weekly Education Insider for ways in which you can help advance a pro-public education agenda in the 113th Congress.

PRESIDENT OBAMA AND CONGRESS INJECT FAIRNESS INTO TAX SYSTEM, ASK WEALTHY TO PAY THEIR FAIR SHARE

In a down-to-the-wire negotiation, President Obama and Congress reached a deal to address the so-called “fiscal cliff.” In the early morning hours of New Year’s Day, the Senate passed with overwhelmingly bipartisan support (89-8) a deal negotiated in large part by Vice President Biden, Majority Leader Harry Reid and Minority Leader Mitch McConnell. Read NEA’s letter to Members of the Senate supporting the bill. Later that day, the House passed the same bill by a vote of 267-157. See how your Senators and Representative voted on the deal. Read NEA President Dennis Van Roekel’s statement on the deal.

The bill makes no cuts to Social Security, Medicare, or Medicaid, and will:

  • Permanently extend middle class tax cuts for 114 million households while permanently raising tax rates for individuals making over $400,000 per year and for married couples making over $450,000 per year;
  • Permanently extend a number of tax benefits to help families and students pay for college, such as the student loan interest deduction, the tax exclusion on employer-provided educational assistance, and extend for five years the American Opportunity Tax Credit for college costs;
  • Extend for two years the $250 tax deduction for educators who spend money out of their own pockets to pay for school supplies;
  • Extend the Qualified Zone Academy Bond (QZAB) program for school construction and modernization;
  • Extend unemployment insurance for a year for two million struggling Americans;
  • Expire the payroll tax holiday that Americans had been enjoying for the last two years.

The deal temporarily averted the draconian across-the-board cuts (“sequestration”) to education that would have kicked in had Congress not taken action. However, for public education advocates, this reprieve will only last for two months, setting up another major clash between the President and the GOP House and Senate leadership about spending cuts at the same time they must raise the nation’s debt ceiling.

HARMFUL SPENDING CUTS STILL ON THE TABLE Ð TELL CONGRESS, NO MORE EDUCATION CUTS!

Because the fiscal cliff deal only partially reduced and delayed the across-the-boardcuts for two months, the newly-sworn in Congress will soon embark on a new round of contentious budget battles. These deep, arbitrary cuts, if allowed to go into effect, will be devastating to the programs and services that ordinary Americans depend on, including education, transportation, public safety, medical research, and environmental protection. The cuts to education alone could still exceed $3 billion just in 2013. Discretionary programs have already borne a disproportionate share of deficit reduction Ð taking a $1.5 trillion hit in the past few years.

The impending cuts to education will mean fewer educators, students crammed into already overcrowded classrooms, shorter school weeks, 4-year-olds cheated out of early childhood education, and dreams dashed for aspiring college students. The impact will be harshest on the students who are in most need of help and can least afford to take more hits, including students in high poverty communities and students with disabilities.

Take action today:

REMINDER TAKE OUR CYBER-LOBBYIST SURVEY AND TELL US WHAT ISSUES MATTER MOST TO YOU

If you haven’t already done so, please take just a few moments to fill out our very brief survey. As the 113th Congress begins, your voice will be more critical than ever. Education activists like you are the key to our success in advancing pro-public education policies. Please help us make sure we are providing you with the information you want on the issues that matter most to you, your family, your students, and your community. Please complete our very brief survey to help us tailor information to meet your interests.

Take Action Today: Fill out our brief cyber-lobbyist survey to let us know what issues matter most to you.

CHEERS AND JEERS

Cheers to:

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President Obama, who in his remarks following passage of the fiscal cliff deal said, “[W]e can't simply cut our way to prosperity. Cutting spending has to go hand-in-hand with further reforms to our tax code so that the wealthiest corporations and individuals can't take advantage of loopholes and deductions that aren't available to most AmericansÉ. We can come together as Democrats and Republicans to cut spending and raise revenue in a way that reduces our deficit, protects our middle class, provides ladders into the middle class for everybody who’s willing to work hard. We can find a way to afford the investments that we need to grow and compete. We can settle this debate, or at the very least, not allow it to be so all-consuming all the time that it stops us from meeting a host of other challenges that we face—creating jobs, boosting incomes, fixing our infrastructure, fixing our immigration system, protecting our planet from the harmful effects of climate change, boosting domestic energy production, protecting our kids from the horrors of gun violence.”

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Representative Steve LaTourette (R-OH), the new President of Main Street Partnership (formerly the Republican Main Street Partnership), who said, “Compromise doesn’t mean surrendering Ð it means success. Compromise is not an act of political cowardice Ð indeed it is the exact opposite, it is an act of incredible political courage. We need more voices in Washington willing to put the best interests of the American people above petty partisanship.”

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Representatives Alcee Hastings (D-FL), Eddie Bernice Johnson (D-TX) and Grace Napolitano (D-CA), who circulated a letter calling on the Obama administration to preserve mental health funding in its fiscal year 2014 budget proposal in the wake of five large scale shootings that have occurred since 2007.

Jeers to:

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Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY), who said in a recent interview, “the debate about potential gun legislation in the wake of the Connecticut school shooting will take a back seat” for the next three months.

 

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House Speaker John Boehner (R-OH), who said that he plans to use the upcoming battle over raising the federal debt ceiling as leverage for more spending cuts.