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Federal Legislative Updates September 2013

News from Capitol Hill. . .

 

September 27, 2013
September 20, 2013
September 13, 2013 

September 27, 2013

SHUTDOWN LOOMS BUT FIGHT TO END SEQUESTER CUTS GOES ON — TELL CONGRESS TO TURN AWAY FROM AUSTERITY


Will they or won't they? Will Congress reach a last minute deal on a short-term funding bill by 11:59 p.m. Monday or will the federal government shut down?

Political drama was front and center all week, but the Senate on Friday afternoon did pass an amended short-term funding bill (H.J. Res. 59) — called a continuing resolution or CR. The Senate stripped out the provision to permanently defund the Affordable Care Act (ACA) and shortened the period the measure remains in effect by a month, to November 15. Unfortunately, it does maintain current funding levels, meaning it continues the deep sequester level cuts.

The measure heads back to the House, where it remained unclear as of Friday how GOP leadership would proceed; they were to meet with their caucus Saturday. Passing a very temporary CR, of just a week, was one possibility. Another possibility for GOP leadership is to send the CR back to the Senate with another Affordable Care Act-related amendment.

NEA opposes any CR that perpetuates the sequester cuts that have already reduced education funding, including Head Start, by nearly $3 billion. Sequestration is hitting the most vulnerable communities and students the hardest. Nationwide, one in four children attends school in a district that depends on the federal government for 15-20 percent of its education funding.

Another fiscal showdown looms over raising the nation’s debt ceiling which, according to Treasury Secretary Jack Lew, will be reached by October 17.

Congress needs to hear from educators that it’s time to reverse course, turn away from the austerity path, and invest in America’s children and their education. Keep the pressure on. Tell Congress to oppose any final FY14 funding bill that continues the sequester.

TAKE ACTION TODAY! — Tell Congress: No more cuts to kids and education!

URGE CONGRESS TO END ALL FORMS OF WORKPLACE DISCRIMINATION, SUPPORT ENDA


Too many educators have been the victims of irrational employment discrimination based on sexual orientation — a protracted history that sadly continues to this day. The Employment Non-Discrimination Act (ENDA) of 2013 (H.R. 1755 / S. 815) would prohibit discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity in most workplaces, and extend protections currently provided on the basis of race, religion, national origin, age, and disability — critical steps to ensuring basic civil rights in the workplace. The measure has bi-partisan support and has already cleared a Senate committee, but still awaits a floor vote in the Senate and action in the House.

TAKE ACTION TODAY! — Tell your Senators and Representative to co-sponsor and urge passage of ENDA.

SPEAK UP FOR HOUSE ACTION ON IMMIGRATION REFORM


The Senate has passed a comprehensive immigration reform bill (S. 744), but the House has yet to bring a bill to the floor. The time is now for the House to act, and 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.

CONGRESS PASSES EXTENSION OF SECURE RURAL SCHOOLS!


The House and Senate this week approved a bill to extend the nation’s helium reserve (H.R. 527) that also included a one-year extension of and $329 million for the Secure Rural Schools Program. It will provide short-term, transitional funding and time to develop a long-term approach to meeting the needs of students and restoring economic vitality in rural communities located on or near federal forest lands.

Before passage of the Secure Rural Schools and Communities Act, which sought to create a reliable funding stream for schools in 770 counties near national forests, funding for many schools had dropped dramatically due to declining revenues in timber sales — in some cases, to less than 10 percent of historic levels. Students were severely impacted as teachers and education support professionals were laid off, extracurricular programs eliminated, and desperately needed building repairs postponed.

An extension of SRS got rolling recently in a bipartisan NEA-supported measure related to forested communities.

CHEERS AND JEERS


Cheers to:

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Senator Barbara Mikulski (D-MD), chair of the Senate Appropriations Committee, for pushing to end the sequester in a final FY 2014 funding bill. “Sequester is a mechanism to do swashbuckling across-the-board cuts no matter if a program is good or whether the program is needed. We oppose that. We want to cancel sequester for at least two years.”

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Representatives Raúl Grijalva (D-AZ) and Keith Ellison (D-MN) for their letter to Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV) and Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) opposing a CR that locks in sequester-level funding of $986 billion. “The Congressional Budget Office has estimated that the sequester could cost as many as 1.6 million jobs in 2014. It has already cut nutrition assistance to children, research for diseases like cancer and Alzheimer’s Disease, education for children from low-income families, disaster relief grants and other important programs that we entrust to the public sector.”

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Representative Rosa DeLauro (D-CT) for urging Congress to end the sequester, noting in a letter to colleagues that if the sequester continues in fiscal year 2014, the cumulative effect will be “a cut of 17.1 percent below the 2010 level (in real per-capita terms).”

Jeers to:

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Senator Ted Cruz (R-TX), who held the Senate floor for nearly 24 hours this week in an effort to defund and repeal the Affordable Care Act that prevents 17 million children from no longer being denied health care coverage for having a pre-existing condition.

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House Republican leadership for crafting a bill to prevent a default on the nation’s credit but only if an assortment of partisan provisions are also attached to it, including yet another attempt to delay and derail the Affordable Care Act. President Obama has stated he will not negotiate over the full faith and credit of the nation and risk an economic shutdown by failing to raise the debt limit.

September 20, 2013

HOUSE PASSES SHORT-TERM FUNDING BILL THAT CONTINUES SEQUESTER; TELL CONGRESS TO REVERSE COURSE AND END THE SEQUESTER


The House on Friday on a nearly party-line vote of 230-189 passed a short-term funding bill (H.J.Res. 59) that continues the devastating cuts imposed by sequestration. The NEA-opposed measure, which would fund the government through Dec. 15, locks in the sequester’s reckless cuts that have already reduced education funding, including Head Start, by nearly $3 billion in FY13. It would also permanently defund the Affordable Care Act (ACA).

“The U.S. House of Representatives today doubled down on continuing the irreparable harm to critical education programs by locking in the damaging sequester cuts that hurt students, public schools and our economy,” said NEA President Dennis Van Roekel.

Next week, the Senate is expected to strip the provision that defunds the ACA, and pass its own short-term funding bill to send back to the House. Congress must agree and President Obama must sign a short-term funding bill by October 1, when FY 2014 begins, to prevent a shutdown of the federal government.

Sequestration is hitting the most vulnerable communities and students the hardest. Nationwide, one in four children attends school in a district that depends on the federal government for 15-20 percent of its education funding, meaning the cuts are more devastating to those districts.

Congress needs to hear from educators. It’s time to reverse course, turn away from the austerity path, and invest in America’s children and their education. Keep the pressure on. Tell Congress to oppose any funding bill that continues the sequester.

TAKE ACTION TODAY! — Tell Congress: No more cuts to kids and education!

HOUSE VOTES TO DEEPLY SLASH FOOD ASSISTANCE PROGRAM


The House on Thursday in a straight party-line vote of 217-210 passed the NEA-opposed Nutrition Reform and Work Opportunity Act of 2013 (H.R. 3102), which would slash food stamps — officially the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) — by nearly $40 billion over the next decade. The cuts come at a time when 21 million children rely on SNAP for food, and one in five children in America lives in poverty. The enrollment of low-income children in school meal programs would be undermined and 210,000 children would lose access to nutritious meals at school.

“Children will feel the brunt of the deep cuts for years to come,” said NEA President Dennis Van Roekel. “It is wrong to score political points on the backs of children and the most vulnerable.” President Obama issued a veto threat on the House bill, which had been broken out of a previous farm bill passed by the House. The farm bill may now go to a conference committee between the House and Senate, which is unlikely to accept the extraordinary SNAP cuts.

NEA CALLS FOR DOUBLING OF E-RATE CAP, ENCOURAGES MEMBERS TO WEIGH IN


On September 16, NEA filed initial comments with the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) in response to a request for comments on modernizing the E-Rate program. NEA’s recommendations for modernizing the program include doubling the funding cap permanently — to approximately $5 billion — and streamlining the application process.

The FCC is accepting comments on the E-rate program until October 16. NEA encourages members to weigh in — it is critical that educators are heard and share their stories. Filing comments is simple (see below). If possible, include a brief example of how you use, or would like to use, Internet-enabled technology in the classroom.

TAKE ACTION TODAY! Click here for step-by-step instructions and a sample letter.

HOUSE PASSES BIPARTISAN BILL TO FUND RURAL SCHOOLS


The House on Friday on a bipartisan vote of 244-173, passed the NEA-supported Restoring Healthy Forests for Healthy Communities Act (H.R. 1526). The bill provides short-term, transitional funding and time to develop a long-term approach to meeting the needs of students and restoring economic vitality in rural areas.

Before passage of the Secure Rural Schools and Communities Act, which soughtto create a reliable funding stream for schools in 770 counties near national forests, funding for many schools had dropped dramatically due to declining revenues in timber sales — in some cases, to less than 10 percent of historic levels. Students were severely impacted as teachers and education support professionals were laid off, extracurricular programs eliminated, and desperately needed building repairs postponed.

H.R. 1526 could serve as a framework for addressing the critical need for a long-term, sustainable approach to meeting the needs of students and ensuring the economic vitality of forested communities in rural areas.

CHEERS AND JEERS


Cheers to:

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All 15 Republicans who crossed party lines and voted against $40 billion in cuts to SNAP: Representatives Shelley Moore Capito (WV), Mike Fitzpatrick (PA), Jeff Fortenberry (NE), Chris Gibson (NY), Michael Grimm (NY), Richard Hanna (NY), Walter Jones (NC), Peter King (NY), Frank LoBiondo (NJ), Patrick Meehan (PA), Gary Miller (CA), Chris Smith (NJ), David Valadao (CA), Frank Wolf (VA), and Don Young (AK).

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Representative Scott Rigell (R-VA) for opposing the continuing resolution that would continue the sequester, and calling for a replacement of sequestration.

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Representative Xavier Becerra (D-CA) for making the case against a continuing resolution that funds the government at the current $988 billion level: “I know of very few people who would want to see us undermine our ability to have safe food to eat, help America’s families get their kids ready for school, help make sure our veterans get the programs they deserve, and help our seniors from seeing these cuts to the Meals on Wheels program.”

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Senator Chris Coons (D-DE) for summing up why the sequester is so harmful: “Whether it’s potential furloughs of men and women who serve at Dover Air Force Base, whether it’s tens of thousands of children being kicked out of Head Start programs, whether it’s thousands of women not getting the breast cancer screenings they need or hundreds of thousands of children not getting the vaccines they’re supposed to get, the impacts of the sequester are becoming stronger and broader and more negative all across our country.”

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Representative Marcia Fudge (D-OH) for underscoring the impact of the House vote to slash food assistance (SNAP) on America’s students. “A staggering one in five children, more than 16 million, is food insecure and 47 percent of all SNAP benefits go to children under 18.”

thumbsup Representative Frederica Wilson (D-FL) for noting the importance of teachers’ unions to middle class economic security in a House hearing on “The Future of Union Organizing”.

Jeers to:

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Democrats Jim Matheson (UT), Mike McIntyre (NC), and the 228 Republicans who supported the continuing resolution that would continue the sequester and permanently defund the Affordable Care Act.

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House Majority Leader Eric Cantor (R-VA) for bringing forward the bill to slash food assistance (SNAP) by nearly $40 billion, which would force 210,000 students to lose access to nutritious meals at school.

thumbsdown House GOP leadership for bringing forward a short-term funding bill that continues sequestration and permanently defunds the Affordable Care Act.

September 13, 2013

AS CONGRESS DEBATES FY14 FUNDING BILL, TELL THEM ‘NO MORE CUTS TO EDUCATION’


The House this week delayed action on a continuing resolution to fund the government for FY 2014 amid Republican disagreements over defunding the Affordable Care Act. With the clock ticking to the start of the fiscal year on Oct. 1 and few legislative days left, the House is expected to bring a three-month continuing resolution to the floor again next week. Unfortunately, the measure introduced this week would continue the devastating cuts set in motion by the sequester, which slashed education funding across-the-board in FY 2013 by nearly $3 billion. Already, the cuts have caused class sizes to balloon, eliminated afterschool programs, and forced 57,000 children out of Head Start classes.

It’s time to reverse course, turn away from the austerity path that is hitting the most vulnerable the hardest, and invest in America’s children and their education. Check out NEA’s new analysis of federal funding that shows one in four students attend schools in districts that rely on federal funding for 15-20 percent of all funding — the sequester hurts these schools and students even more.

The NEA-supported Senate budget would end the sequester in FY14, invest more in education, provide new revenue, and help create jobs. Keep the pressure on. Tell Congress to oppose continuing the sequester and that you support funding at the Senate level. No more cuts to kids and education!

TAKE ACTION TODAY! — Tell Congress to oppose continuing the sequester and support the Senate’s funding level.

URGE SENATORS TO GET ESEA REAUTHORIZATION RIGHT


ESEA reauthorization remains a possibility this year, meaning the time is now to reach out to Senators to urge the Senate to get it right. NEA strongly opposed the version of ESEA reauthorization passed by the House in July, the so-called “Student Success Act” (H.R. 5). The Senate 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: END WORKPLACE DISCRIMINATION IN ALL ITS FORMS


Too many educators have been the victims of pernicious and irrational employment discrimination based on sexual orientation — a protracted and sordid history that sadly continues to this very day. The Employment Non-Discrimination Act (ENDA) of 2013 (H.R. 1755 / S. 815) would prohibit discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity in most workplaces, and extend protections currently provided on the basis of race, religion, national origin, age and disability — critical steps in addressing basic civil rights in the workplace.

TAKE ACTION TODAY! — Tell your Senators and Representative to co-sponsor ENDA.

NEA FILING COMMENTS WITH FCC ON MODERNIZING E-RATE PROGRAM


NEA will file initial comments with the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) on September 16 in response to a published request for comments on the E-Rate program. The FCC has requested the comments 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.

NEA will post the initial filing (will be available here) and provide educators with instructions on how to file, too (along with a template for a letter). Reply comments are due October 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.

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.

CHEERS AND JEERS


Cheers to:

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House Minority Whip Steny Hoyer (D-MD) for pushing to end the continuation of the sequester while commenting on the House GOP leadership’s funding bill that was delayed because of disagreement in their own caucus: “Once again, House Republicans are in disarray, unable to govern as a result of division and dysfunction. Democrats oppose continuing the irrational policy of sequester and believe Congress ought to put the well-being of our nation over partisan politics by working together to move America forward.”

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Representative Rush Holt (D-NJ) in urging a reauthorization of the Education Sciences Reform Act during a House hearing this week: “We badly need rigorous research. We've been hampered for decades, maybe forever, because every policymaker, every school board ... was a student and therefore an expert in education, and so we end up with the same old things, with overlays of fads.”

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Representative Virginia Foxx (R-NC) and Representative Ruben Hinojosa (D-TX) for standing up for service members and veterans during a hearing this week. “The higher education community has a responsibility to tailor programs and coursework to ensure the needs of this unique student population are met and taxpayer resources are used wisely and efficiently,” said Foxx.

“Congress has a responsibility to support the more than two million soldiers who are returning from the wars of Iraq and Afghanistan,” said Hinojosa. “Our nation must help them transition to civilian life. Unfortunately, some for-profit companies and lenders are preying on service members and veterans to cash in on their GI benefits.”

Jeers to:

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House GOP leadership for drafting a continuing resolution that locks in the sequester’s draconian cuts, treating them as the new normal for education and the nation.