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Federal Legislative Update May 2013

May 24, 2013
May17, 2013
May10, 2013

News from Capitol Hill. . .

May 24, 2013

VICTORY: IMMIGRATION REFORM CLEARS FIRST HURDLE, URGE CONGRESS TO TAKE NEXT STEP


After three weeks of “markup,” the Senate Judiciary committee this week passed S.744, the Border Security, Economic Opportunity and Immigration Modernization Act, by a bipartisan 13 – 5 vote. NEA sent a letter supporting and opposing a set of specific amendments, while reaffirming our core principles for reform. You can find the letter here. The committee passed key NEA-supported amendments, including:

• The bipartisan "HELP Separated Children Act” by Sens. Franken (D-MN) and Grassley (R-IA), that works to protect children by allowing parents who become involved in immigration enforcement actions to arrange for child care and participate in any proceedings affecting their children; and,

• Sen. Hirono’s (D-HI) amendment allowing students who came to the U.S. as children to be eligible for federal tuition assistance such as student loans and federal work-study support.
The bill heads to the Senate floor now with action expected to take up much of the June work period.

TAKE ACTION TODAY!

DEADLINE NEARING: URGE CONGRESS TO STOP STUDENT LOAN RATES FROM DOUBLING


On Thursday, the House of Representatives passed the “Smarter Solutions for Students Act”, H.R. 1911, by a vote of 221 – 198. The bill is the House Republicans’ proposal to address the issue of student loan interest rates, which are scheduled to double on July 1. NEA sent a letter urging members to vote no on the bill which would change the federal student loan interest rate to a variable rate as opposed to a fixed rate, likely resulting in higher borrowing costs for students and families during the life of the loan. NEA praised the plan for including a rate cap but noted deep concern it seeks deficit reduction at the expense of financially struggling college students. Similar action to prevent student loan rates from rising is expected in the Senate when it returns from recess for the June work period.

We need your action and voice to let Congress know that a college education should be affordable for all who want to attend and it should not reduce the deficit on the backs of students by raising interest rates. Check out how a Manchester Community College sophomore is raising her voice.

TAKE ACTION TODAY!

  • E-mail Congress — Tell your Senators and Representative to prevent student loan rates from doubling and ensure college affordability.

ESEA REAUTHORIZATION APPROACHING


The Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee and House Education and the Workforce Committee are both expected to begin markup on the reauthorization of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA) this summer. While it is too early to speak to specifics of their proposals, it is critical for educators across the country to speak up and spread our message to Congress on reauthorization.

NEA’s overall message has three main components: champion student success, elevate the profession, and fight for social justice. Click here for a one-page summary.

TAKE ACTION TODAY!

  • E-mail Congress — Tell your Senators and Representative you support ESEA Reauthorization that champions student success, elevates the profession and fights for social justice.

TELL CONGRESS: ENOUGH IS ENOUGH, NO MORE EDUCATION FUNDING CUTS


This week, the House Appropriations Committee approved funding allocations that continue the painful sequestration cuts for the 2014 – 2015 school year but shifts more money to Defense, meaning even deeper cuts to domestic programs, like education. Under the allocations, the Department of Education’s discretionary budget could face an 18.6 percent cut below sequester-levels, which would drop funding below FY2002 levels, the first year under the No Child Left Behind Act. Since that time, our preK-12 to higher education institutions are educating 7.65 million more students. See NEA’s letter of opposition to the House funding allocations.

While additional cuts to education should be unthinkable, the impacts of the current year’s cuts continue to be felt by children in Head Start, to schools that rely on Impact Aid, to educators in Department of Defense run schools. Under the sequester, Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel announced educators in DOD school face up to 5 furlough days before September 30th while education support professionals face 11 furlough days. NEA sent a letter to Congress urging members to help prevent these furloughs and asked Senators to sign on to a letter led by Senator Warner (D-VA) asking Secretary Hagel to exercise the discretion granted to him by Congress to make sure the DOD cuts do not penalize the children of our military men and women.

TAKE ACTION TODAY!

  • E-mail Congress — Tell your Senators and Representative to urge the Secretary of Defense to stop the harmful furloughs that are denying educational opportunity to the children of the men and women serving in our armed forces.

CHEERS AND JEERS


Cheers to:

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Senators Leahy (D-VT), Feinstein (D-CA), Schumer (D-NY), Durbin (D-IL), Whitehouse (D-RI), Klobuchar (D-MN), Franken (D-MN), Coons (D-DE), Blumenthal (D-CT), Hirono (D-HI), Hatch (R-UT), Graham (R-SC), and Flake (R-AZ) of the Senate Judiciary Committee for voting yes on the immigration bill, S. 744.

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Sen. Hirono (D-HI) for her successful amendment to the immigration bill that would allow students who came to the U.S. as children to be eligible for federal tuition assistance, such as federal student loans.

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Senators Franken (D-MN) for his successful amendment to the immigration bill, the "HELP Separated Children Act” to help ensure the impact on children is at the center of consideration during immigration enforcement actions.

thumbsup Senators McCain (R-AZ) and Collins (R-ME) for publicly breaking ranks with GOP leadership and endorsing a move to a conference committee to resolve the massively divergent Senate and House FY14 budgets.
thumbsup Representative DeLauro (D-CT) for criticizing the stunningly deep domestic funding cuts proposed by House Republicans: “Republicans are trying to cut more money from core priorities like medical research, support for our schools, job training, financial aid for college students—and the list goes on and on. They may say this is unfortunate, but necessary. That is simply not true. They did not appear out of thin air. These cuts are the direct result of voluntary choices made by the House Majority.”
thumbsup Representatives Brooks (R-AL), Jones (R-NC), Graves (R-GA), Grimm (R-NY), Buchanan (R-FL), Cotton (R-AR), Stutzman (R-IN), Gohmert (R-TX) for crossing party lines and voting against H.R. 1911, which would effectively raise the cost of borrowing on student loans.
thumbsup Senator Murkowski (R-AK) who was the only Republican Senator to join all 12 Senate HELP Committee Democrats to vote to approve a full slate of nominees for the National Labor Relations Board.

Jeers to:

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Senators Sessions (R-AL), Cornyn (R-TX), Lee (R-UT), Cruz (R-TX) and Grassley (R-IA) of the Senate Judiciary Committee for voting no on the immigration bill, S. 744.

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Representatives Polis (D-CO), Garcia (D-FL), Peters (D-CA), and Maffei (D-NY), the only Democrats to vote yes on H.R. 1911, which would effectively raise the cost of borrowing on student loans.

May 17, 2013

TELL CONGRESS IT IS TIME FOR IMMIGRATION REFORM


On May 9, 2013, the Senate Judiciary Committee began to markup (or review amendments submitted on) S. 744, the Comprehensive Immigration Reform (CIR) bill. In a process that is anticipated to last through the week of May 20, the committee has offered and is voting on amendments to the bill on issues from border security, STEM education and training and an e-verify system. This week included some victories for students and education.

  • An amendment which strengthens the STEM education provisions of S. 744 was offered by Senator Hatch (R-UT) and passed this week. The Hatch amendment strengthens the bill’s important STEM provision in key ways. The amendment doubles the funds to be used for STEM Education and training and ensures 70 percent of funds would be proportionately distributed to the states to disseminate directly to school districts, ensuring these dollars will have a broader more equitable reach. NEA believes distributing funds in this way – as opposed to offering competitive grants – is the most equitable way to support and enhance STEM education and training across the country. Click here to read NEA’s letter to the Committee regarding this amendment.

Next week marks the third, and likely final, week of markup when the committee will take up issues related to a pathway to citizenship, including the DREAM Act and the NEA-supported “Little DREAMer” amendment.

  • Senator Blumenthal’s (D-CT) “Little Dreamers” amendment ensures that young children are not excluded from the DREAM Act’s expedited pathway to citizenship simply because of their age. Specifically, the amendment would allow children who meet the requirements of the DREAM Act and are under the age of 18 upon completing five years of registered provisional status to be eligible to transition to lawfully permanent resident status and be immediately eligible for citizenship. NEA strongly supports this amendment and is leading the push for its adoption.

TAKE ACTION TODAY!

URGE CONGRESS TO PREVENT STUDENT LOAN RATES FROM DOUBLING


On Thursday, the House Education and the Workforce Committee acted on the Smarter Solutions for Students Act (H.R. 1911). The bill is the House Republicans’ proposal to address the issue of student loan interest rates, which are scheduled to double on July 1. H.R. 1911 would move student loans to a variable interest rate structure, though it does include a rate cap. NEA praised the Republicans for including a rate cap and at the same time we expressed concern about proposals that seek deficit reduction at the expense of financially struggling college students. The bill passed out of committee by a vote of 24 yeas and 13 nays. NEA took no official position on the bill, however NEA supported an amendment to the bill from Rep. Courtney (D-CT) which would have extended the current rate of 3.4% another two years and an amendment from Rep. Tierney (D-MA) which set interest rates to the same rate the government grants to banks. Both amendments were defeated. The bill now moves to the House floor, likely next week. Similar action to prevent student loan rates from rising is expected in the Senate in the next few weeks.

Like last year, the doubling of student loan rates will be a hot topic on Capitol Hill and in the media. We need your action and support to push NEA’s message to Congress that a college education should be affordable for all who want to attend and they cannot reduce the deficit on the backs of students.

TAKE ACTION TODAY!

  • E-mail Congress — Tell your Senators and Representative you prevent student loan rates from doubling and ensure college affordability.

ESEA REAUTHORIZATION APPROACHING


The Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee and House Education and the Workforce Committee are both expected to begin markup on the reauthorization of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA) in the next few weeks. While it is too early to speak to specifics of their proposals, it is critical for educators across the country to speak up and spread our message to Congress on reauthorization.

NEA’s overall message to Congress on ESEA reauthorization has three main components: champion student success, elevate the profession, and fight for social justice. Click here for a one-page summary.

TAKE ACTION TODAY!

  • E-mail Congress — Tell your Senators and Representative you support ESEA Reauthorization that champions student success, elevates the profession and fights for social justice.

FURLOUGHS FOR DEPARTMENT OF DEFENSE SCHOOLS


This week, Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel issued a directive stating that educators in Department of Defense run schools face up to 5 furlough days while education support professionals face 11 furlough days due to budget cuts from sequestration. This will result in military dependents losing school days and vital services while many of their parents are fighting overseas. Due to the timing of this decision these furloughs will be sandwiched into the first month of school next year, impacting students’ access to high quality education.

NEA sent a letter to Congress urging members to help prevent these furloughs and asked Senators to sign on to a letter asking Secretary Hagel to exercise the discretion granted to him by Congress, or seek out additional and appropriate flexibility, to make sure the DoD sequester cuts do not penalize the children of our military men and women.

TAKE ACTION TODAY!

  • E-mail Congress — Tell your Senators and Representative to stop the harmful furloughs that are denying educational opportunity to the children of the men and women serving in our armed forces.

BRINGING THE EQUITY COMMISSION TO AMERICA’S CLASSROOMS: A WEBINAR FOR EDUCATORS


Over the last two years, NEA President Dennis Van Roekel, along with 26 other impressive Americans, served as a Commissioner on the Congressionally-created Commission on Equity and Excellence. The Commission released its final report in February. We, along with our partners and guests, invite you to attend a free webinar next week to highlight and elevate the work done by the Equity and Excellence Commission, which produced the report “For Each and Every Child.”

This webinar will discuss how the Commission’s findings can help support local efforts to promote educational equity and success in classrooms, schools and communities. Following short presentations from each panel member, attendees are invited to participate in an interactive Q&A session. Click here to register for the webinar.

CHEERS AND JEERS


Cheers to:

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Senator Orrin Hatch (R-UT) with support from Senator Amy Klobuchar (D-MN) and Senator Chris Coons (D-DE) for offering the STEM Education amendment to the immigration reform bill. The amendment was adopted by the Committee.

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Senator Johnny Isakson (R-GA) and Senator Bob Corker (R-TN) for publicly breaking ranks with GOP leadership and endorsing a move to a conference committee to resolve the massively divergent Senate and House FY14 budgets.

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Representative Steny Hoyer (D- MD) who spoke on the House Floor Wednesday morning about the need to replace the sequester and finish work on a budget. In referring to the 37th time the House has voted to repeal the Affordable Care Act, Rep. Hoyer said, “What I find – and I believe most Americans find – incomprehensible is how this House could waste its time on such a blatantly partisan vote when the effects of sequestration are having a growing negative effect on our economy and on the lives of so many American families. That ought to be our focus this week and every week until we find a solution, Mr. Speaker.”

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Senate HELP Committee Democrats for voting yes on President Obama’s nominee for Secretary of Labor, Tom Perez. Mr. Perez’s nomination has passed in the Committee and will now be voted on by the full Senate.

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Representative Jim McGovern (D-MA) for proposing an amendment to the House Agriculture Committee’s Farm Bill which would restore $20.5 billion in cuts to the Supplemental Nutrition Funding Assistance Program.

Jeers to:

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House Republicans and Democrats Reps. Jim Matheson (UT) and Mike McIntyre (NC) for voting a 37th time to repeal the Affordable Care Act.

thumbsdown Senate HELP Committee Republicans for voting no on President Obama’s nominee for Secretary of Labor, Tom Perez.
thumbsdown The 27 members of the House Agriculture Committee who voted for a Farm Bill with $20.5 billion in cuts to the Supplemental Nutrition Funding Assistance Program.

May 10, 2013

TELL CONGRESS IT IS TIME FOR IMMIGRATION REFORM


The Senate Judiciary Committee has begun “marking up” the Border Security, Economic Opportunity and Immigration Modernization Act of 2013 (S. 744), the comprehensive immigration reform bill from the bipartisan Gang of Eight. NEA believes the bill represents a serious plan and a step in the right direction to fix our broken immigration system. More than 300 amendments have been filed, setting the stage for weeks of committee action followed by floor votes. NEA-supported amendments would:
  • Put all qualified children, including “Little DREAMers,” on the DREAM Act’s five-year pathway to citizenship.
  • Help keep kids safe during Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) raids.

The United States is a nation of immigrants and how we treat new immigrants reflects our commitment to the values that define us. NEA continues to urge Congress to:

  • Enact and expand the DREAM Act and Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA).
  • Preserve the unity of families, traditional and nontraditional.
  • Create a realistic path to citizenship for the 11 million aspiring citizens who call America home.

TAKE ACTION TODAY!

URGE CONGRESS TO REPEAL GPO & WEP PENALTIES


This week, Senators Mark Begich (D-AK), Susan Collins (R-ME), Dean Heller (R-NV) and Elizabeth Warren (D-MA) introduced the Social Security Fairness Act of 2013 (S. 896), previously introduced in the House (H.R. 1795) by Representatives Rodney Davis (R-IL) and Adam Schiff (D-CA). This legislation would repeal the Government Pension Offset (GPO) and Windfall Elimination Provision (WEP), which penalize people who have dedicated their lives to public service by taking away benefits they have EARNED.

GPO reduces public employees’ Social Security spousal or survivor benefits by two-thirds of their public pension — nine out of ten people lose their entire spousal benefit, even though their spouse paid Social Security taxes for many years. WEP reduces the earned Social Security benefits of an individual who also receives a public pension from a job not covered by Social Security — hard-working people lose a significant portion of the benefits they have earned themselves.

TAKE ACTION TODAY!

  • E-mail Congress — Tell your Senators and Representative to support and co-sponsor the Social Security Fairness Act of 2013 (H.R. 1795/S. 896).

SEND A MESSAGE TO CONGRESS DEMANDING NO MORE BUDGET CUTS


Congress is still struggling to address the ramifications of the damaging across-the-board cuts and may consider more individual “fixes” as it did two weeks ago, when it enabled the FAA to recall furloughed air traffic controllers. NEA believes Congress must replace the remaining, deep cuts of the sequester with a comprehensive approach that includes raising more revenue.

NEA’s new EdFlight Campaign, designed to heighten awareness of the damage done by the sequester and stave off further budget cuts, stresses the need for Congress to have the right priorities: “The sequester caused flight delays and Congress addressed that within a week. The sequester slashed $3 billion from education, hurting 7.4 million students.” But so far, Congress has done nothing to help stop the hurt inflicted on students by the cuts. Click here for instructions on how to take part in the EdFlight Campaign.

TAKE ACTION TODAY!

  • Email Congress or call 1-866-293-7278 — Tell your Senators and Representative to support the Senate budget that protects funding for education and demands new revenue.
  • Share your story — Tell us how budget cuts are hurting your students.
  • Take the Kids Not Cuts pledge — Already took it? Ask friends to sign it and join the fight.

HOUSE EXAMINES FEDERAL ROLE IN ACCOUNTABILITY UNDER ESEA


As a prelude to reauthorization of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA), which both chambers of Congress are expected to take up later this spring and summer, the House Education and the Workforce Committee held a hearing to explore the federal role in accountability. In a letter to the Committee, NEA urged Congress to replace Adequate Yearly Progress (AYP) with a new accountability system based on multiple measures.

NEA’s overall message to Congress on ESEA reauthorization has three main components: champion student success, elevate the profession, and fight for social justice. Click here for a one-page summary.

SENATE PASSES MARKETPLACE FAIRNESS ACT


By a vote of 69-27, the Senate passed the NEA-supported Marketplace Fairness Act (S. 743), which authorizes states to require remote sellers to collect sales tax — legislation that would help stop the erosion of states’ tax base and provide $23 billion in revenue for education and other critical priorities. See how your Senator voted. The bill’s outlook in the House is not yet clear.

CHEERS AND JEERS


Cheers to:

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Senator Richard Blumenthal (D-CT) for filing the Little DREAMers amendment to the immigration reform bill, which would put all qualified children on the DREAM Act’s five-year pathway to citizenship.

 

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Senator Al Franken (D-MN) for introducing the HELP for Separated Children amendment to the immigration reform bill, which would keep kids safe, informed, and accounted for during Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) raids.

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At the House hearing on the federal role in accountability: Representative Marcia Fudge (D-OH) for citing the sequester’s adverse impact on students’ safety and emotional well-being; Representative Glenn Thompson (R-PA) for noting that answers on teacher evaluations should not originate with the federal government; and Representative Frederica Wilson (D-FL) for strong opposition to including vouchers in the reauthorized ESEA.

Jeers to:

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Senate HELP Committee Republicans for delaying again a vote on President Obama’s nominee for Secretary of Labor, Tom Perez.

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Senator Ted Cruz (R-TX) for filing an amendment to the immigration bill that would eliminate the possible pathway to citizenship for 11 million aspiring Americans.