Skip to Content

Federal Legislative Update August 2013

News from Capitol Hill. . .

August 23, 2013
August 2, 2013

August 23, 2013

CONTACT MEMBERS OF CONGRESS WHILE THEY’RE STILL BACK HOME


The Congressional recess continues for two more weeks, a great opportunity to make use of senators’ and representatives’ time back in your state and district — to meet with or contact them, share what is happening in your communities as the new school year begins, and urge them to take action on ending sequestration, passing comprehensive immigration reform, and getting ESEA reauthorization right, to name just a few issues.

VICTORY — DOD FURLOUGHS CHANGE MEANS NO LOST SCHOOL DAYS FOR STUDENTS


This month, Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel announced that teachers in Department of Defense-run schools will NOT be furloughed due to the sequester. Tens of thousands of students in Department of Defense-run schools in the United States and overseas can now start the new school year without worrying that learning time in the classroom will be lost. Some schools would have had to cancel a full week of education for children from military families.

The Pentagon originally announced plans to furlough civilian employees, including Department of Defense Education Activity (DoDEA) faculty and staff, for 22 days. That number was later reduced to 11 days, then to five days for classroom teachers before this announcement. Education support professionals and other DoDEA positions were still facing 11 furlough days, which has now been reduced to 6 days. Educators who belong to the Federal Education Association wrote thousands of letters to Congress, protesting plans to close schools down and the impact it would have on the students of our military families. Your advocacy made the difference but more pressure is needed!

Despite the good news, furloughs of ESPs remain a problem and further uncertainty looms. The new fiscal year starts October 1 and unless Congress reaches an agreement for FY2014 funding, another round of sequestration could hit DoD-run schools and other federal education programs.

TAKE ACTION TODAY! Tell Congress to push the Defense Department to end ALL educator furloughs.

TELL CONGRESS NO MORE CUTS IN EDUCATION FUNDING


When Congress returns from recess on September 9, it will have just nine legislative days to resolve the budget stalemate before FY 2014 begins. The NEA-supported Senate budget would preserve federal funding for education, provide new revenue, and help create jobs while the NEA-opposed House budget would slash funding even more for education and healthcare for kids. Keep the pressure on and tell Congress, “No more cuts to kids and education!”

TAKE ACTION TODAY! — Tell Congress to protect education funding.

SPEAK UP FOR HOUSE ACTION ON IMMIGRATION REFORM


The Senate has passed a comprehensive immigration reform bill, but the House has yet to bring a bill to the floor. NEA continues to urge common-sense and comprehensive 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.

URGE SENATORS TO GET ESEA REAUTHORIZATION RIGHT


NEA strongly opposed the version of ESEA reauthorization passed by the House, the so-called “Student Success Act” (H.R. 5). Now, it’s up to the Senate to move forward. The HELP Committee approved a partisan measure, S. 1094, earlier this year. NEA’s message is that it’s time 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! — Tell your Senators to get ESEA reauthorization right.

FCC PROPOSES MODERNIZING E-RATE PROGRAM


The Federal Communications Commission (FCC) has published a request for comments on the E-Rate program in response to President Obama’s ConnectED initiative, which aims to give schools serving 99 percent of our nation’s students access to next-generation, high-capacity broadband.

Since its creation in 1996, the E-Rate program has had overwhelming success in connecting schools and classrooms to the Internet. For the 2013 funding year, schools and libraries sought E-Rate funding in excess of $4.9 billion — nearly double the amount available. To support 21st century teaching and learning, the E-Rate program needs increased funding coupled with cost-saving measures and efficiencies.

NEA will file comments with the FCC and will provide educators with instructions on how to file, too. Initial comments are due September 16. It is critical that we make our voices heard and share our stories — including the ramifications of insufficient Internet connectivity and how high-capacity broadband enhances teaching and learning. Click here for more information on the E-Rate program.

CHEERS AND JEERS


Cheers to:

thumbsup

Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel for heeding the calls of educators and taking steps to avoid furloughs of teachers and reduce furloughs of education support professionals in DoDEA-run schools. But more steps are needed (see Action Alert above).

thumbsup

Representatives Aaron Schock (R-IL), Daniel Webster (R-FL), and Dave Reichert (R-WA) for endorsing the legalization of undocumented immigrants, including a path to citizenship for those who meet specified preconditions.

thumbsup

Representative Jeff Denham (R-CA) for urging Speaker John Boehner to bring immigration reform to the House floor. “I believe that we’ve got to bring every issue to the floor so we have a full debate on a top-to-bottom approach,” he said on August 15.

Jeers to:

thumbsdown

Those in Congress who refuse to replace sequestration budget cuts that have denied more than 57,000 children under age five a place in Head Start, the federal program that helps prepare the nation’s poorest children for school.

thumbsdown

House Judiciary Committee Chairman Bob Goodlatte (R-VA) for rejecting what he calls a “special” pathway to citizenship for undocumented immigrants, a key element of the bipartisan immigration reform bill passed overwhelmingly by the Senate.

August 2, 2013

CONGRESS HEADS INTO AUGUST RECESS — CONTACT YOUR MEMBERS WHILE THEY ARE HOME!


Congress embarks on a month-long recess beginning Friday with significant work remaining to be done on funding, immigration, ESEA and a host of issues important to educators and students when they return for a mere nine legislative days in September. August provides a great opportunity to make use of senators’ and representatives’ time back in your state and district — to meet with or contact them, share what is happening in your communities as the new school year begins, and urge them to take action on ending sequestration, passing comprehensive immigration reform, and getting ESEA reauthorization right, to name just a few issues (see below for action items).

Our next Ed Insider will find your inbox mid-way through the Congressional recess on August 23rd. In the meantime, here’s a rundown of this week’s action and what’s ahead:

STUDENT LOAN BILL ON WAY TO PRESIDENT’S DESK


By a vote of 392-31, the House approved the Senate-amended Bipartisan Student Loan Certainty Act of 2013 (H.R. 1911), which ties interest rates for federally subsidized loans to market rates — specifically, the 10-year Treasury note rate. The measure now goes to President Obama, who is expected to sign it into law shortly.

For now, and likely the next couple years, the bill will result in rates that are considerably lower than the current 6.8 percent rate for undergraduates. Ultimately, however, the rates could rise above where they currently stand, to as high as 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 bill, in part because of the potential for higher rates, we are pleased that it includes front-end caps and a fixed rate for the life of the loan. The original House-passed bill would have allowed rates to fluctuate during the term of the loan.

SENATE COMMITTEE APPROVES WIA REAUTHORIZATION


By a bipartisan vote of 18-3, the Senate Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions (HELP) Committee passed its version of the Workforce Investment Act (WIA) reauthorization, (S. 1356), which comprises federal programs in adult and youth job training, adult and family literacy, and vocational rehabilitation. Sens. Richard Burr (R-NC), Tim Scott (R-SC) and Pat Roberts (R-KS) were the only No votes on the bill; Sen. Rand Paul (R-KY) declined to vote.

S. 1356 improves program alignment, enhances the focus on attainment of post-secondary credentials, and heightens the role of educators in vocational rehabilitation. NEA has actively sought reauthorization of WIA for many years and supports these elements of the bill. We also suggested additional improvements and raised a few concerns, including possible threats to Perkins Career and Technical Education funding by allowing its use for job training program administration instead of the career-tech education program support for which the funds are intended. See NEA’s letter to the HELP Committee here. There is no current timetable for Senate floor action. The House passed an NEA-opposed partisan bill earlier this year.

SPEAK UP FOR HOUSE ACTION ON IMMIGRATION REFORM


The Senate has passed a comprehensive immigration reform bill, but the House has yet to bring a bill to the floor. NEA continues to urge common-sense and comprehensive 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.

URGE SENATORS TO GET ESEA REAUTHORIZATION RIGHT


NEA strongly opposed the version of ESEA reauthorization passed by the House, the so-called “Student Success Act” (H.R. 5). Now, it’s up to the Senate to move forward. The HELP Committee approved a partisan measure, S. 1094, earlier this year. NEA’s message is that it’s time 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! — Tell your Senators to get ESEA reauthorization right.

TELL CONGRESS NO MORE CUTS IN EDUCATION FUNDING


Congress adjourns on Friday for a month-long recess, leaving just nine legislative days to resolve the budget stalemate before October 1, when FY 2014 begins. The NEA-supported Senate budget would preserve federal funding for education, provide new revenue, and help create jobs; the NEA-opposed House budget would slash funding even more for education and healthcare for kids. Keep the pressure on and tell Congress, “No more cuts to kids and education!”

TAKE ACTION TODAY! — Tell Congress to protect education funding.

SENATE CONFIRMS NOMINEES, RESTORES NLRB TO FULL STRENGTH


This week, the Senate confirmed all five of President Obama’s nominees to the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB), restoring it to full strength. Unwarranted delays in confirming nominations had virtually shut down the agency. The NLRB ensures the legal rights of workers, including educators, to fight for better working conditions and the means to provide for their families. NEA was pleased to see the nominees confirmed.

CHEERS AND JEERS


Cheers to:

thumbsup

Representative Hal Rogers (R-KY), Chairman of the House Appropriations Committee, for publicly breaking with House leadership and making the reasonable assessment that House funding levels for FY 2014 are unrealistic, and that the House and Senate need to go to a conference committee to reconcile differences and end the sequester. “[We] must come together as soon as possible on a comprehensive compromise that repeals sequestration, takes the nation off this lurching path from fiscal crisis to fiscal crisis, reduces our deficits and debt, and provides a realistic topline discretionary spending level to fund the government in a responsible and attainable way,” he said.

thumbsup

President Obama for calling for a renewed focus on creating jobs and strengthening the middle class: “What we need is a serious, steady, long-term American strategy that reverses the long erosion of middle class security and gives everyone a fair shot to get ahead. More good jobs that pay decent wages. A better bargain for the middle class. An economy that grows from the middle-out.”

thumbsup

Senator Lisa Murkowski (R-AK) for crossing party lines and voting to confirm the nominations of Nancy Jean Schiffer and Kent Yoshiho Hirozawa to the National Labor Relations Board.

thumbsup

Senators Charles Schumer (D-NY) and Debbie Stabenow (D-MI) for noting the detrimental impact sequestration is having on the economy and making the case this week for ending the arbitrary cuts.

Jeers to:

thumbsdown

Senators Ted Cruz (R-TX), Mike Lee (R-UT), and Marco Rubio (R-FL) for urging fellow conservatives to join them in opposing ANY bill that appropriates funds for Obamacare, including a continuing resolution to avoid a government shutdown when the current fiscal year ends.