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Federal Legislative Update July 2013

July 26, 2013
July 19, 2013
July 12, 2013

July 26, 2013

SENATE APPROVES NEW STUDENT LOAN RATE PLAN


By a vote of 81-18, the Senate on Wednesday approved a compromise student loan plan, S. 1334, which ties interest rates for federally subsidized loans to market rates – specifically, the 10-year Treasury note rate. Initially, rates would be considerably lower than the current rate of 6.8 percent, but ultimately they could rise to as high 8.25 percent for undergraduates, 9.5 percent for graduate students, and 10.5 percent for parents of students. While NEA did not take a position on the underlying bill, in part because of the potential for higher rates, we were pleased to see improvements such as: the inclusion of front-end caps on the rates, and ensuring the rate is fixed for the life of the loan. The original House-passed bill would have allowed rates to fluctuate during the term of the loan. See how your senators voted. The House is expected to swiftly pass the compromise plan next week.

HOUSE VOTES TO STOP DOD EDUCATOR FURLOUGHS IN FY14 – THREATS STILL REMAIN


The House of Representatives passed, by voice vote, a bipartisan NEA-supported amendment to the Department of Defense Appropriations Act of 2014 (H.R. 2397) that would prohibit the use of FY14 funds to implement sequestration-related furloughs of Department of Defense civilian employees, including educators.

Due to the sequester, the Defense Department has announced furloughs of five days for teachers and 11 days for education support professionals in DoD-run schools in the United States and overseas. Some schools will have to cancel a week of education for the children of our military families. While passage of the amendment this week is an important victory, the FY14 funding bill is a long way from becoming law; planned furloughs for the coming school year will remain in place unless enough voices are raised to encourage the Defense Department to stop ALL furloughs now.

TAKE ACTION TODAY!

Tell Congress to pressure the Defense Department to exercise its powers and stop all furloughs for educators in DoD schools.

URGE THE HOUSE TO PASS COMPREHENSIVE IMMIGRATION REFORM


The House of Representatives continues to slow-walk action on comprehensive immigration reform. This week it held a hearing in a Judiciary Subcommittee, “Addressing the Immigration Status of Illegal Immigrants Brought to the United States as Children.” NEA used the opportunity to urge the House to support common-sense immigration reform that:

  • Creates a realistic path to citizenship for all the aspiring Americans who call the United States home.
  • Preserves the unity of families, traditional and nontraditional.
  • Creates an expedited path to citizenship for students brought to the United States as children.

TAKE ACTION TODAY!

Tell the House to act swiftly, in a bipartisan manner, and enact comprehensive immigration reform.

TELL YOUR SENATORS TO GET ESEA REAUTHORIZATION RIGHT


With the passage last week of the NEA-opposed Student Success Act (H.R. 5) by the House of Representatives, attention turns again to the Senate.

NEA’s message is that the reauthorized ESEA must provide more flexibility, empower educators, and focus on ESEA’s original promise of equity and fairness for students. That message resonates powerfully, especially when it comes from those who know best: classroom teachers and education support professionals.

TAKE ACTION TODAY!

Tell your Senatorsto get ESEA reauthorization right.

CHEERS AND JEERS


Cheers to:

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Senators Jack Reed (D-RI) and Elizabeth Warren (D-MA) for offering an amendment that would ensure the new student loan structure does not leave students and families more vulnerable – even a couple years from now – than they are under current law.

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Senator Bernie Sanders (I-VT) for offering an amendment to the student loan bill that would sunset the student loan agreement within two years to keep interest rates low over the short-term and provide the time needed to enact a long-term solution.

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Representative Rosa DeLauro (D-CT) upon hearing that the GOP had reversed course and indefinitely postponed revealing and voting on its FY14 Labor/HHS/Education funding bill: “Shame on them. Shame on them for putting forward this façade of a budget. Shame on them for gutting funding for education, health and labor programs to such a low level that they cannot even defend their own proposals,” she said.

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Mike Simpson (R-ID), who serves on the Labor-HHS-Education panel: “For all of those people who want to continue to cut and cut and cut, now they are going to see the implications of some of those cuts.”

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Representatives Doug Lamborn (R-CO), Beto O’Rourke (D-TX), John Barrow (D-GA), and Lynn Jenkins (R-KS) for offering an amendment to the Department of Defense appropriations bill to prevent the use of funds to implement sequestration-related furloughs of DoD civilian employees, including educators in DoD-run schools.

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Senator Lisa Murkowski (R-AK) for crossing party lines and joining all the Democrats on the HELP Committee in voting to approve the two new NEA-supported nominees to the National Labor Relations Board.

Jeers to:

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House GOP leadership for pulling back on revealing and marking up its FY14 Labor/HHS/Education funding bill. Based on the House GOP budget, the bill has to make extraordinary cuts that are far deeper than even sequestration, but leadership continues to avoid showing the specific cuts and taking votes on them.

July 19, 2013

HOUSE PASSES FLAWED ESEA REAUTHORIZATION BILL


The House of Representatives completed action this morning on H.R. 5, the Student Success Act, or ESEA reauthorization. The measure passed 221-207 with no Democratic votes in support and 12 Republicans voting no on final passage. NEA opposed the deeply flawed bill because it erodes the historical federal role in public education: targeting resources to marginalized student populations as a means of helping to ensure equity of opportunity for all students. See how your Representative voted on final passage. NEA President Dennis Van Roekel issued this statement on the bill’s passage.

Read NEA’s letters opposing the bill here and here. NEA also took positions on 18 amendments to the bill and scored two important wins: an amendment to require that multiple measures of school success beyond just test scores are part of the accountability system, and an amendment to strip very problematic federally-mandated teacher evaluation language included in H.R. 5, which prevents a federal mandate requiring teacher evaluations singularly based on student achievement data without any protections of collective bargaining.

The bill became worse this morning with the adoption – by voice vote – of an amendment to dilute the impact of the Title I program by creating a portable entitlement that will drain Title I dollars from schools with high concentrations of poverty. NEA strongly opposed the amendment.

While there is no current timetable for consideration of the Strengthening America’s Schools Act of 2013 (S. 1094), passed earlier this year by the Senate Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions (HELP) Committee, we will continue to urge that any final ESEA reauthorization must strengthen the federal promise of equity.

NEA’s message to Congress remains that the reauthorized ESEA must provide more flexibility, empower educators, and focus on ESEA’s original promise of equity and fairness for students. That message resonates powerfully, especially when it comes from those who know best: classroom teachers and education support professionals.

TAKE ACTION TODAY!

E-mail Congress – Tell your Senators to get ESEA reauthorization right.

STUDENT LOAN BATTLE CONTINUES


Negotiations continued this week on a path forward to address the doubling of student loan interest rates that occurred on July 1. The Senate may vote next week on a negotiated agreement.

We previously urged Senators to vote YES on the Keep Student Loans Affordable Act (S. 1238), which would roll back and freeze the rate at 3.4 percent for another year to allow time to develop a long-term solution.

Last year, total student debt passed the $1 trillion mark. Already, 35 percent of our nation’s 37 million students are behind on their loan payments. Adding to the student loan debt burden will not only harm students, it will adversely affect America’s economy – those who face crushing debt cannot buy homes or cars, start businesses, support families, or invest, invent, innovate or otherwise contribute to economic growth.
NEA believes that all students who wish to do so should be able to pursue higher education and their dreams, regardless of ability to pay.

TAKE ACTION TODAY!

E-mail Congress – Tell your Senators and Representative to help make college more affordable by keeping student loan interest rates low.

PEREZ CONFIRMED AS SECRETARY OF LABOR


This week the Senate, on a 54-46 party-line vote, approved the nomination of Thomas E. Perez to be the nation’s new Secretary of Labor. NEA strongly supported his nomination.

CHEERS AND JEERS


Cheers to:

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Representatives Tom Reed (R-NY), David McKinley (R-WV) and Bill Owens (D-NY) for sponsoring the amendment to H.R. 5 that requires state accountability systems to include multiple measures of success. The amendment passed.

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Representatives Steve Scalise (R-LA) and Rob Bishop (R-UT) for sponsoring the amendment to H.R. 5 to prevent a federal mandate requiring teacher evaluations singularly based on student achievement data and with no protections for collective bargaining. The amendment passed.

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These House members who also offered NEA-priority amendments to H.R. 5:

  • Representatives Chris Gibson (R-NY) and Mark Takano (D-CA) – to include grade-span testing, and to Takano for delivering a colloquy on the floor about it
  • Representative Michael Grimm (R-NY) – to protect collective bargaining rights for educators
  • Representatives Mike Honda (D-CA) and Andre Carson (D-IN) – to advance equity for students
  • Representative John Tierney (D-MA) – to require greater transparency and accountability for charter schools
  • Representative Tony Cardenas (D-CA) – to increase funding for English-language learners
  • Representative Mark Takano (D-CA) – to restore maintenance of effort (funding requirements for states)
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The six Republicans who voted for cloture to allow a final vote on the Perez nomination: Sens. Lamar Alexander (TN), Susan Collins (ME), Bob Corker (TN), Mark Kirk (IL), John McCain (AR), and Lisa Murkowski (AK).

Jeers to:

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House Majority Leader Eric Cantor (R-VA) for making a bad bill even worse by sponsoring the amendment to H.R. 5 that would dilute the impact of already underfunded Title I program by making funds “portable.”

July 12, 2013


SPEAK UP NOW! ESEA REAUTHORIZATION ON HOUSE FLOOR NEXT WEEK


In just a few days, the full House is expected to debate and vote on the “Student Success Act” (H.R. 5)—the House Education and Workforce Committee-passed version of ESEA reauthorization. NEA opposed the bill in committee in committee for a number of reasons, but particularly raised concerns that it would erode the historical federal role in public education of targeting resources to marginalized student populations as a means of helping to ensure equity of opportunity for all students. NEA is working to stop efforts to add private school vouchers on the floor, to prevent a continued narrow focus on high stakes tests, and to restore collective bargaining protections so educators have a voice in their schools' success.

NEA’s message to Congress is to provide more flexibility, empower educators, and focus on ESEA’s original promise of equity and fairness for students. That message resonates powerfully, especially when it comes from those who know best: classroom teachers and education support professionals.

TAKE ACTION TODAY!

E-mail Congress—Tell your Representative and Senators to get ESEA reauthorization right.

TELL CONGRESS HELP MAKE COLLEGE MORE AFFORDABLE


On July 1, the interest rate on federally subsidized student loans doubled from 3.4 percent to 6.8 percent—an increase that will cost the average student $1,000 more annually. NEA urged Senators to vote YES on the Keep Student Loans Affordable Act (S. 1238), which would roll back and freeze the rate at 3.4 percent for another year to allow time to develop a long-term solution. Unfortunately, the 51-49 vote fell short this week of the 60 votes necessary to move forward. See how your Senator voted. Negotiations continue on alternative plans but no agreement had been reached by Friday.

Last year, total student debt passed the $1 trillion mark. Already, 35 percent of our nation’s 37 million students are behind on their loan payments. Adding to the student loan debt burden will not only harm students, it will adversely affect America’s economy—those who face crushing debt cannot buy homes or cars, start businesses, support families, or invest, invent, innovate or otherwise contribute to economic growth.

NEA believes that all students who wish to do so should be able to pursue higher education and their dreams, regardless of ability to pay.

TAKE ACTION TODAY!

E-mail Congress—Tell your Senators and Representative to help make college more affordable by keeping student loan interest rates low.

SENATE’S ED FUNDING BILL A STEP IN RIGHT DIRECTION—TELL CONGRESS: NO MORE BUDGET CUTS

Consistent with the FY 2014 budget passed by the Senate earlier this year, the Senate Appropriations Committee passed, by a 16-14 party-line vote, the NEA-supported Labor-HHS-Education funding bill that includes a $3 billion increase for education programs over pre-sequestration FY 2013 funding levels. The Senate bill stands in stark contrast to the House allocations for Labor-HHS-Education which is almost $43 billion less and would require further draconian cuts to schools and healthcare. Meanwhile, the impact of the sequester continues to spread and is hitting the most vulnerable especially hard.

TAKE ACTION TODAY!

  • Email Congress or call 1-866-293-7278—Tell your Senators and Representative to support the Senate’s budget and funding levels, which help education and demand 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.

CHEERS AND JEERS


Cheers to:

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Republican Senatorss Mark Kirk (IL), Lisa Murkowski (AK), and Orrin Hatch (UT) for crossing party lines on the Senate HELP Committee to create a strong, 15-7 bipartisan majority in favor of the Employment Non-Discrimination Act (S. 815)—never before has a Congressional committee reported legislation to prohibit discrimination on the basis of both sexual orientation and gender identity.

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Representative Rob Andrews (D-NJ) for showing heartfelt concern and dismay during a hearing on college affordability in the House Education and Workforce Committee this week—he noted that the compensation of adjunct faculty in post-secondary education often barely meets the minimum wage.

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The 17 members of the Senate Appropriations Committee, led by Senator Tom Harkin (D-IA), who voted against and defeated an effort by Senator Mary Landrieu (D-LA) to cut $35 million from School Improvement Grants to bolster funding for charter schools: Mark Begich (D-AK), Thad Cochran (R-MS), Susan Collins (R-ME), Mike Johanns (R-NE), Tim Johnson (D-SD), Patrick Leahy (I-VT), Jeff Merkley (D-OR), Barbara Mikulski (D-MD), Jerry Moran (R-KS), Lisa Murkowski (R-AK), Patty Murray (D-WA), Mark Pryor (D-AR), Jack Reed (D-RI), Jeanne Shaheen (D-NH), Jon Tester (D-MT), and Tom Udall (D-NM).

Jeers to:

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House Republican leadership for bringing to the floor a revised farm bill that funds commodity programs, but jettisoned the entire nutrition portion of the bill, including the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) in order to appease its far right caucus. The bill narrowly passed with no Democratic support.