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Federal Legislative Update February 2013

February 22, 2013
February 15, 2013
February 8, 2013
February 1, 2013

2/22/13

URGENT: IF CONGRESS FAILS TO ACT, EDUCATION FACES MORE CUTS IN JUST ONE WEEK!


Walking off the “fiscal cliff” would be an absolute disgrace. The innocent, most vulnerable, and neediest among us would be devastated. I understand that coming to a consensus is difficult. But our representatives in Congress are adults who know how to fend for themselves, not innocent children who need all the support they can get. Put ideologies and party stances aside. Do the right thing. Stand up for those who cannot stand up for themselves. — NEA member from Illinois

Democrats, Republicans, business leaders, economists, and educators agree: across-the-board cuts — “sequestration” in Washington-speak — is a terrible idea. Yet some in Congress seem willing to let them happen.

Next week, Congress returns from recess and unless it acts, automatic across-the-board cuts will begin March 1. We expect votes in the Senate as early as Wednesday, including a plan from Democratic leaders to raise new revenue from the very wealthy and profitable corporations instead of making indiscriminate cuts.

Now is the time to pull out all the stops — Contact Congress immediately! Personalize the impact of the cuts with real-life stories like those submitted by your fellow educators.

NEA member Megan Allen, a fifth-grade teacher from Florida, testified before the House Democratic Steering and Policy Committee on February 21. She told lawmakers:

I have 36 students who dream. Who have beautiful goals. Who see school as the lever to break the chains of poverty and achieve something amazing in life for themselves and their families. And our school is working to make that happen …

In my school district — Hillsborough County in Florida — 142 schools stand to lose $3 million in Title I funding. On top of that, we’ll be getting $2 million less for special education — the equivalent of shifting the entire cost of educating 1,500 students with disabilities from the federal government to Hillsborough County. Programs serving English-language learners — we have 25,000 — will be cut as well

Some say we cannot afford to keep spending as much on education. I say we cannot afford to spend a cent less. In fact, we should be spending more. We owe it to our youngest dreamers. Our learners. Economic recovery begins in our classrooms. Investing in education is investing in the future of America. The children of today are the leaders of tomorrow — our living legacy.

Allen’s testimony was so moving, it made national news! Check it out on YouTube.

The Washington Post printed Allen’s testimony in its entirety — and her picture — under this headline, “It’s wrong to spend ‘a cent less on high-risk kids,’ teacher tells lawmakers.”

The Hill included this quote from Allen in its story on the hearing: “My students live in poverty and have special needs that federal funding help. The looming cuts threaten all of this.”

TAKE ACTION TODAY!

  • Share your story — Tell us how across-the-board cuts would affect you, your students, your school, and your colleagues.
  • Email your Senators now — Tell them to support the Democratic leadership’s plan to prevent the devastating cuts. Tell them to oppose any plan that would permit those cuts to proceed.
  • Call Congress on our Educator Connector Line, 1.866.293.7278 — Urge elected officials to protect education, Medicaid, Medicare, and Social Security.
  • For the latest news, check out Kids Not Cuts on the Education Votes website.

DEMAND ACTION TO PREVENT GUN VIOLENCE


Millions across the nation continue to demand stronger, sensible measures to prevent gun violence and keep our children and communities safe. But it will be very difficult to pass even common-sense measures that most Americans support — for example, criminal background checks for all gun purchases. We must keep up the drumbeat to succeed!

NEA supports a multi-pronged approach to curbing the gun violence plaguing our nation. In addition to stronger laws to limit access to weapons of war, we advocate:

  • Enhancing school safety while giving local districts the flexibility to decide what they need — counselors, nurses, or other personnel.
  • Providing professional development for all school staff in cultural competence, conflict management, and anti-bullying initiatives.
  • Expanding and improving mental health services.

This Wednesday, NEA member Vincent Pompei, president of the California Association of School Counselors and one of four public educators invited to the first White House anti-bullying summit with President Obama and the First Lady, will testify at a hearing of the House Education and the Workforce Committee, “Protecting Students and Teachers: A Discussion on School Safety.”

Learn more about NEA’s efforts to ensure the safety of all students.

TAKE ACTION TODAY!

  • E-mail your Members of Congress — Tell them enough is enough. Tell them to take action immediately to help prevent more senseless deaths from gun violence.
  • Send your stories to edinsider@nea.org— Lawmakers need to know the truth about violence in our nation’s schools and classrooms. Tell us what you think they can do to help prevent more tragedies. Have you or your school been touched by gun-related violence? What have you experienced as an educator when discussing such incidents with your students? Tell us!

SPEAK UP FOR COMPREHENSIVE IMMIGRATION REFORM


NEA’s priorities for comprehensive immigration reform include providing a path to legal citizenship, promoting family unity, and passing the DREAM Act, which would provide a path to citizenship for talented young people who were brought to this country as children. Read NEA’s letter to the Senate Judiciary Committee on this issue.

TAKE ACTION TODAY!

CHEERS AND JEERS


Cheers to:

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House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi for holding the hearing at which NEA member Megan Allen testified to the havoc across-the-board cuts would wreak on her students.

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Representatives Rob Andrews (D-NJ), Chris Van Hollen (D-MD), Elijah Cummings (D-MD), and John Sarbanes (D-MD) for their support for stopping the looming cuts.

Cummings said to Allen, “I went to a school like yours. If it were not for the support services and the people like you, I would not be here in Congress today. When you talk about that rock, I get it. Your kids … want to be somebody. They want to dream. That little boy Daniel with the rock, I want to see where he is in 10 years.”

When Sarbanes observed that Congress ought not be cutting education programs while continuing tax subsidies for oil companies, Allen responded, “When I hear about the sequester, it sounds nonsensical. Why would we do this? Why would we take from 10-year-olds while letting large corporations get big tax breaks?”

Jeers to:

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House Speaker John Boehner (R-OH) for saying the looming across-the-board cuts don’t go far enough. In a Wall Street Journal op-ed published February 20, he said, “Most Americans are just hearing about this Washington creation for the first time: the sequester … There is nothing wrong with cutting spending that much — we should be cutting even more — but the sequester is an ugly and dangerous way to do it.”

2/15/13

STATE OF THE UNION SHINES SPOTLIGHT ON PRESSING ISSUES FACING STUDENTS, EDUCATORS AND SCHOOLS


President Obama’s State of the Union Address touched on a number of issues of great importance to educators, including the looming cuts to critical programs, the need to address the gun violence plaguing our nation, and the importance of comprehensive immigration reform. But the speech also included a welcome focus on education policy, with particular emphasis on early childhood learning opportunities. The President said that initiatives focused on economic recovery, strengthening the middle class, and creating new jobs won’t matter if we don’t equip people with the skills and training needed to succeed in the jobs of the future. That, he said, has to start by making high-quality pre-K accessible to all children. The President’s speech also highlighted the need to address college affordability, and to ensure that everyone has access to the education and training that today and tomorrow’s jobs require.

NEA agreed with the President that making education and students a priority is an economic imperative. Read NEA’s response to the State of the Union Address and learn how educators are responding to the President’s initiatives.

URGENT: ONLY TWO WEEKS LEFT TO STOP MORE CUTS TO EDUCATION!


We have a high percentage of students receiving subsidized lunch/breakfast and we have a high number of at risk learners both identified as 504 or IDEA and those not officially identified. Our funds have dried up to the point where way too many students cannot choose to stay after school for additional help because there are no buses funded to get them home in time to help with their younger siblings. Or the walk is simply too far or dangerous for them to take on any kind of a consistent basis. On days when the heat and humidity reach into the 90s we have to dismiss students 2.5 hours early…Essentially we continue to do more with less and then even more with even less …Nevertheless we want to teach and see our students advance rather than suffer setbacks due to issues beyond their control. – NEA Member Illinois

While I am proud that our district has survived several cuts due to the budget issues, I am overwhelmed by having 27 students again in my class this year. There are so many students in our school that we had to add another 5th grade class. This brought our classrooms down from 35 students to the 27 we have now. But, without money this new teacher has no instructional guides, we have few books to use to teach our kids, and teachers have spent well over $100 each just to give our kids the bare minimum of supplies they cannot afford. I can't imagine an employee at a big firm buying their own pencils to hand out by the water cooler so others can do their work. – NEA member, North Carolina

Across-the-board cuts scheduled to go into effect in only two weeks will make the all too familiar stories above even more prevalent. In his State of the Union Address, President Obama highlighted the danger of these cuts, saying “These sudden, harsh, arbitrary cuts would…devastate priorities like education, and energy, and medical research. They would certainly slow our recovery, and cost us hundreds of thousands of jobs. That’s why Democrats, Republicans, business leaders, and economists have already said that these cuts, known here in Washington as the sequester, are a really bad idea.”

We must make sure Congress stops these cuts and finds a more balanced approach to deficit reduction. But, stopping the cuts to education 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.

KEEP UP THE PRESSURE: DEMAND STRONGER, SENSIBLE GUN VIOLENCE PREVENTION LAWS


Millions across the nation continue to demand stronger, sensible gun violence prevention measures to keep our children and communities safe. This week, the Senate Judiciary Committee, Subcommittee on Constitution, Civil Rights and Human Rights held another hearing on proposals to reduce gun violence. Read NEA’s statement submitted for the hearing.

In his State of the Union Address, President Obama called for immediate action on gun violence prevention, saying “Each of these proposals deserves a vote in Congress. Now, if you want to vote no, that’s your choice. But these proposals deserve a vote…. [Hadiya Pendleton’s parents] deserve a vote. Gabby Giffords deserves a vote. The families of Newtown deserve a vote. The families of Aurora deserve a vote. The families of Oak Creek and Tucson and Blacksburg, and the countless other communities ripped open by gun violence –- they deserve a simple vote. They deserve a simple vote.”

Yet, passing even the most common-sense measures, such as background checks for all gun purchases, will be very difficult. We must keep up the drumbeat for sensible gun violence prevention measures.

NEA supports a multi-pronged approach to curbing the gun violence plaguing our nation. We believe a comprehensive plan must include not only stronger laws to limit access to weapons of war, but also:

  • Enhancement of school safety, including giving local districts the flexibility to decide what kind of personnel they need to ensure safety — counselors, nurses, or other personnel.
  • Professional development for all school staff in in cultural competence, conflict management, and anti-bullying initiatives.
  • Expansion/improvement of mental health services.

Learn more about NEA’s efforts to ensure safe, secure, peaceful learning environments for all students.

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.

NOW IS THE TIME: SUPPORT COMPREHENSIVE IMMIGRATION REFORM


The path to comprehensive immigration reform moved forward this week as the Senate Judiciary held a hearing on the myriad of issues involved in ensuring a fairer, common-sense immigration policy. In his State of the Union Address this week, President Obama called for comprehensive reform, saying, “Our economy is stronger when we harness the talents and ingenuity of striving, hopeful immigrants.” The President called specifically for strengthening border security, establishing a responsible path to citizenship, and reducing the bureaucracy to allow immigrants to move more quickly through the system.

The Senate hearing built on the President’s calls, with U.S. Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano testifying, “Our immigration system is not working. Our communities, workers and employers are all frustrated by a system that treats a drug smuggler the same as a high-achieving student, undercuts honest employers and leaves millions in fear of deportation and vulnerable to fraud and other crimes.”

NEA’s priorities for comprehensive immigration reform include providing a path to legal citizenship, promoting family unity, and passing the DREAM Act -- to provide a path to citizenship for talented young people who were brought to this country as children. Read NEA’s letter to the Senate Judiciary Committee in advance of this week’s hearing. Learn more about the Senate hearing.

Take Action Today: Urge Congress to act swiftly and in a bipartisan manner to address comprehensive immigration reform.

CHEERS AND JEERS


Cheers to:

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President Obama, who in his State of the Union Address said, “we can’t ask senior citizens and working families to shoulder the entire burden of deficit reduction while asking nothing more from the wealthiest and the most powerful. We won’t grow the middle class simply by shifting the cost of health care or college onto families that are already struggling, or by forcing communities to lay off more teachers and more cops and more firefighters.”

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Representatives Mike Thompson (D-CA) and Peter King (R-NY), who co-authored an Op-Ed supporting universal background checks for all gun purchases.

thumbsup Republican Representatives Jon Runyan (NJ), Charlie Dent (PA), Dave Reichert (WA), Richard Hanna (NY), David Joyce (OH), Shelley Moore Capito (WV), Frank LoBiondo (NJ), Michael Fitzpatrick (PA), Jim Gerlach (PA), Chris Gibson (NY), Rodney Frelinghuysen (NJ), Leonard Lance (NJ), Patrick Meehan (PA), Rodney Davis (IL), Tom Reed (NY), Lee Terry (NE) and Michael Grimm (NY), who signed a letter to House Speaker Boehner urging immediate, bipartisan reauthorization of the Violence Against Women Act. Learn more
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Senator Tim Kaine (D-VA), who at a hearing on the federal budget this week pointed out the need to address revenues, saying that we can’t only look at spending cuts to balance the budget.

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Senator Jeff Merkley (D-OR), who at a hearing on the federal budget this week called for closing corporate tax loopholes to raise revenues rather than cutting programs like Head Start and special education.

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Senator Bernie Sanders (I-VT), who authored a Huffington Post column calling for closure of tax loopholes that allow American corporations to avoid paying taxes by hiding profits offshore and shipping jobs overseas.

Jeers to:

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Senator Marco Rubio (R-FL), who in his response to the President’s State of the Union Address called for “school choice” – a reference to support for private school vouchers.

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The 22 Republican Senators who voted against passage of the Violence Against Women Reauthorization Act. The Senate passed the bill this week with a bipartisan vote of 78-22. See how your Senator voted.

2/8/13

IT’S YOUR TURN: WHAT DO YOU WANT TO HEAR IN NEXT WEEK’S STATE OF THE UNION?


President Obama will give the first State of the Union Address of his second term on Tuesday, February 12. The speech will be broadcast on multiple networks starting at 9:00pm Eastern Time.

NEA has urged the President to use the State of the Union to chart a course for the nation built upon the following principles:

  • Opportunity requires an economy that works for everyone.
  • Opportunity begins in great public schools for every single student.
  • Opportunity requires a democracy that protects every American’s voice and vote.

In particular, NEA called on the President to address a range of critical issues, including investments in education and other programs that spur economic growth; quality early education; affordable higher education; support for community colleges; measures to prevent gun violence and ensure school and campus safety; and fair and comprehensive immigration reform. Read NEA’s full letter to the President.

Educator voices are essential to debates on many of the issues the President is expected to raise in his State of the Union. Tell us what you want to hear the President say on education, the economy, gun violence, immigration, and other issues.

TAKE A STAND: DEMAND STRONGER, SENSIBLE GUN VIOLENCE PREVENTION LAWS


As yet another gun-related tragedy played out in Alabama this week, millions of Americans across the country continue to demand common-sense laws to prevent gun violence. This week, the House Gun Violence Prevention Task Force, led by Representative Mike Thompson (D-CA) released their recommendations to address gun violence. Task Force recommendations include:

  • Actions to promote safety and prevention at the school level implemented in tandem with comprehensive gun violence prevention initiatives.
  • Collaboration by elementary, secondary and post-secondary schools with local community groups to develop and implement a comprehensive, evidence-based safety plan. These groups should include parents, teachers, faculty, student organizations, community based health centers, first-responders and law enforcement.
  • Prioritization of policies and supports to promote a positive school climate, including anti-bullying programs and mental health supports.

NEA praised the recommendations in a letter to the Task Force Chair.

Also this week, President Obama spoke at the Minneapolis Police Department Special Operations Center, calling on all citizens to stand up and demand that lawmakers pass sensible gun legislation. Leaders and members from Education Minnesota attended and participated in the event. The President used the event to again outline his plan, which includes closing background check loopholes to keep guns out of dangerous hands, banning military-style assault weapons and high capacity magazines, making schools safer, and increasing access to mental health services. Learn more about the President’s speech and how education activists are standing with him to stop gun violence.

NEA supports a multi-pronged approach to curbing the gun violence plaguing our nation. We believe a comprehensive plan must include not only stronger laws to limit access to weapons of war, but also:

  • Enhancement of school safety, including giving local districts the flexibility to decide what kind of personnel they need to ensure safety — counselors, nurses, resource officers, or something else.
  • Professional development for all school staff in in cultural competence, conflict management, and anti-bullying initiatives.
  • Expansion/improvement of mental health services.

Learn more about NEA’s efforts to ensure safe, secure, peaceful learning environments for all students.

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.

TIME IS RUNNING OUT: ONLY A FEW WEEKS LEFT TO STOP MORE CUTS TO EDUCATION!


I am currently in my sixth year as an Education Support Professional in special education…It has been disappointing…to hear my colleagues talk about having to purchase school supplies with their own money, or textbooks that have a great deal of wear and tear, and even classroom sizes. Educators have been asked year in and year out to do more with less. One of the buildings on our campus is nearly a century old….Education is something we can all rally around. It does not know a partisan divide. A lot of great things can be achieved if all of us can come together and take the steps necessary to make education the best it can be. – NEA Member, Washington State

I am a special education teacher. We have undergone yearly cuts in the state appropriation for schools since 2008, which translates to drastically reduced "in-service" education, reduced staffing levels, reduced administrative support, fewer books in the library, and delayed textbook adoption. We are expected to make sure every student can read, write, and calculate "on grade level", but funding for tutors to help the lowest 10% of students has been cut to the point that tutorial reading group sizes are 6-8 children, where research suggests 1-3 students per teacher. In addition, special education teachers and paraprofessional staff are asked to spend 16% of the day working with general education students, because there are not enough reading teachers on staff to teach all students that need this service…. Teachers are exhausted, and children are given lip service, instead of well-planned instruction….The children from [poorer] families are subjected to a substandard education that relegates them to low-paying service jobs for a lifetime, perpetuating the cycle of poverty. – NEA Member, Kansas

Across-the-board cuts scheduled to go into effect in less than a month will make the all too familiar stories above even more prevalent. We must make sure Congress stops these cuts and finds a more balanced approach to deficit reduction.

This week, President Obama called for a short-term solution to avoid across-the-board spending cuts. The President indicated he hopes to give negotiators time to pass a broader deficit and budget package through a smaller package of spending cuts and tax reforms, saying “while we need to deal with our deficits over the long term, we shouldn’t have workers being laid off, kids kicked off Head Start and food safety inspections cut while Congress completes the process.”

Stopping the cuts to education 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.

ESEA REAUTHORIZATION: WHERE DO WE STAND?


As the 113th Congress begins, it is unclear when reauthorization of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act might be on the agenda. Little progress was made in the previous Congress, with passage out of Committee of one comprehensive bill in the Senate and several smaller bills in the House. Committees could use the bills passed last year as the starting point for action in this Congress.

This week, U.S. Education Secretary Arne Duncan testified before the Senate Education Committee at a hearing looking at ESEA waivers granted by the Department of Education. The waivers, announced last year, allow states some flexibility in avoiding some of the harshest unintended consequences of the No Child Left Behind Act. NEA welcomed the hearing as a catalyst to reauthorizing the Elementary and Secondary Education Act, saying, “The reauthorization of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act is long overdue. Educators look forward to action by Members of Congress to make key changes in the law that helps transform public schools into high-quality learning centers by recognizing the shared responsibility among local, state, and federal governments.” Read NEA’s full statement.

NEA believes that any ESEA reauthorization proposal must be judged by how well it focuses on equity, supports educators and struggling schools, and helps ensure that public education thrives. Learn more about NEA’s priorities for ESEA reauthorization.

CHEERS AND JEERS


Cheers to:

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President Obama, who at a gun violence prevention event this week said, “We may not be able to prevent every massacre or random shooting. No law or set of laws can keep our children completely safe. But if there’s even one thing we can do, if there's just one life we can save, we've got an obligation to try.”

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Representatives Carolyn Maloney (D-NY), Elijah Cummings (D-MD), Patrick Meehan (R-PA), and Scott Rigell (R-VA), who introduced bipartisan legislation to make firearms trafficking a federal crime and impose stronger penalties for “straw purchasers” who buy guns for convicted felons and others who are prohibited from buying guns on their own.

thumbsup Senator Lamar Alexander (R-TN), who at a hearing this week on the Elementary and Secondary Education Act argued against federal prescription of components of teacher and principal evaluation and emphasized the critical need for local inclusion and buy-in for evaluation systems.
thumbsup Senator Bernie Sanders (I-VT), who at a hearing on the Elementary and Secondary Education Act challenged Education Secretary Arne Duncan about the move to “competitive funding,” noting how difficult it is for smaller, rural districts to compete for funds despite facing as many challenges as more urban districts.
thumbsup Representative George Miller (D-CA), who at a hearing this week on policies impacting the future of education and the workforce, lauded the importance and effectiveness of labor unions in working with community colleges and businesses to provide the training and skilled workers for training programs.
thumbsup Representative Rob Andrews (D-NJ), who at hearing on policies impacting the future of education and the workforce, aggressively questioned a witness from the National Association of Manufacturers about the Association’s opposition to President Obama’s pro-labor appointments to the National Labor Relations Board.
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Representative John Tierney (D-MA), who at hearing on policies impacting the future of education and the workforce, raised concerns about how cuts in state budgets are impacting funding for education, and particularly impacting teacher salaries.

Jeers to:

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House Majority Leader Eric Cantor (R-VA), who in a speech this week at the American Enterprise Institute praised the District of Columbia private school voucher program and called for more voucher programs, under which funding follows the students to any school.

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Senator Rand Paul (R-KY), who at a hearing in the Senate Education Committee this week argued for increased “competition” among schools by having money follow students to their schools (i.e. private school vouchers).

2/1/13

HELP US STOP THE VIOLENCE: SENATE HEARING ADVANCES GUN VIOLENCE PROTECTION


A renewed national dialogue on preventing gun violence continues, with millions across the nation demanding immediate action to protect our children and stop the violence. This week, the Senate Judiciary Committee held a high-profile hearing entitled “What Should America do About Gun Violence?” The hearing featured five witnesses, notably including Captain Mark Kelly (husband of former Representative Gabrielle Giffords), and NRA Chief Lobbyist Wayne LaPierre. The hearing opened with a moving, emotional plea from Representative Giffords urging immediate action.

NEA submitted a letter to the Committee in advance of the hearing expressing support for a multi-pronged approach to addressing gun violence, including universal background checks for all gun purchases, a ban on military-style assault weapons, improved mental health services, and resources and assistance to schools to enhance safety. Read NEA’s letter to the Committee and our press statement released just prior to the hearing.

Common-sense gun measures are just one piece of NEA’s multi-pronged approach to curbing the gun violence plaguing our nation. Such an approach requires a strong focus on 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 last 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.

IN PURSUIT OF THE DREAM: TELL CONGRESS TO SUPPORT THE DREAM ACT IN IMMIGRATION REFORM


This week, President Obama released a four-pronged plan for comprehensive immigration reform at the same time a bipartisan group of Senators announced that they have reached consensus on the outlines of a comprehensive immigration deal. The President’s plan focuses on four areas: continuing to strengthen border security, cracking down on employers hiring undocumented workers, earned citizenship, and streamlining legal immigration. Read NEA’s full response to the President’s proposal and our letter to Congress supporting comprehensive immigration reform.

NEA’s priorities for comprehensive immigration reform include providing a path to legal citizenship, promoting family unity, and passing the DREAM Act -- to provide a path to citizenship for talented young people who were brought to this country as children. Each year, thousands of undocumented students who have lived in the United States for at least five years graduate from U.S. high schools. Yet, because of enormous barriers created by their lack of legal status, many are unable to pursue higher education. Under the DREAM Act, such students could adjust their status to that of a conditional permanent resident and could then have the conditional status lifted if they complete at least two years of college or serve in the military.

Take Action Today: Tell your Members of Congress to support the DREAM Act as part of comprehensive immigration reform.

URGENT: TELL CONGRESS TO STOP EDUCATION CUTS


The district I work in is contemplating closing four elementary schools due to budget cuts. The district I live in is far worse. Two years ago they let all of their first year teachers go. Last year they let a lot more go. In a largely rural district, they also started charging kids $2.00/day to ride the school bus. Classroom sizes are horrendous (over 40 in some instances). – NEA Member, Colorado

I was the lead counselor at a middle school I worked at for twenty years. Due to budget cuts, I lost my position despite having two Masters Degrees, thousands of hours in trainings, and teaching credentials…..The counseling office that once had four counselors was cut to one counselor servicing children in a poverty-stricken neighborhood. Over 80% of the students qualify for free or reduced lunch…. Ironically, these draconian cuts are happening when students need support the most. With the decaying economy, the increasing stress parents experience trying to stay afloat financially, and the general angst adolescents feel as they transition from child to teen, it is hard to believe trained counselors are no longer valued….The mental health of students is compromised because they no longer have access to support services….The simple fact of the matter is that we are neglecting the needs of our children. – NEA Member, California

Stories like those above are just the tip of the iceberg regarding the impact of budget cuts on our students and schools. Yet, across-the-board cuts, delayed for only two months under the early January “fiscal cliff” deal, would make this situation even worse. If Congress doesn’t find a more balanced approach, the cuts to education will cause the elimination of services to millions of students and the loss of tens of thousands of education jobs.

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.

SUPPORT THE VIOLENCE AGAINST WOMEN ACT


Last week, Senators Patrick Leahy (D-VT) and Michael Crapo (R-ID) introduced a strong, bipartisan bill (S. 47) that would reauthorize the landmark Violence Against Women Act (VAWA). The bill, which closely mirrors the bipartisan legislation introduced by these same Senators last Congress, would improve VAWA programs and strengthen protections for all victims of violence.

Last year, the Senate passed strong legislation to reauthorize VAWA, but the House passed a watered-down version that limited services and added obstacles for immigrant women, the LGBT community, and women on reservations.

Senator Leahy has arranged for VAWA to go directly to the Senate floor and Majority Leader Harry Reid has promised to bring the bill up for a vote in the next week. Learn more.

Take Action Today: Tell your Senators to Vote YES on passage of the Violence Against Women Reauthorization Act.

CHEERS AND JEERS


Cheers to:

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Former Representative Gabrielle Giffords, who in a moving appearance before the Senate Judiciary Committee hearing on gun violence said, “This is an important conversation for our children, for our communities, for Democrats, and Republicans. Speaking is difficult but I need to say something important: Violence is a big problem too many children are dying. Too many children. We must do something. It will be hard, but the time is now! You must act! Be bold, be courageous, Americans are counting on you.”

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Senate Budget Committee Chair Patty Murray (D-WA), who released a statement this week saying, “[T]he Budget Committee will be examining our nation’s spending priorities closely and working to make sure we are making the long-term investments in our people and our communities that will allow us to compete and win in the 21st century economy. And as someone whose own family benefited from a government that was there for us when we needed it most, I am also going to fight to make sure the most vulnerable families have the support they need to put food on their table and keep their heads above the water while they work to get back on their feet. This Committee is also going to focus on tackling our debt and deficit in a balanced and responsible way. That means eliminating or improving programs that aren’t working and cutting spending, including defense spending, responsibly. It means strengthening—not privatizing or dismantling— Medicare, Social Security, and other programs our seniors and families count on so they will be there for our children and grandchildren. And it means making sure we are raising the revenue we need in a way that works for the middle class and calls on those who can afford it most to pay their fair share.”

Jeers to:

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House Budget Committee Chair Paul Ryan (R-WI), who said on an appearance on Meet the Press that across-the-board cuts known as “sequester” are going to happen, saying,We think these sequesters will happen because the Democrats have opposed our efforts to replace those cuts with others and they’ve offered no alternative.”

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Newly elected Indiana Governor Mike Pence (R), who in his State of the State address put forward a plan to expand the state’s private school voucher program. Learn more.