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Federal Legislative Update October 2012

October 25, 2013
October 18, 2013
October 11, 2013
October 3, 2013

October 25, 2013

TELL CONGRESS TO STOP THE SEQUESTER, REINVEST IN EDUCATION


As part of last week’s deal to reopen the government and avert default, the House and Senate have formed a budget conference committee. Chaired by Senator Patty Murray (D-WA) and Representative Paul Ryan (R-WI), the 29-member bipartisan, bicameral group includes the entire Senate Budget Committee; Republican Representatives Tom Cole (OK), Tom Price (GA) and Diane Black (TN); and Democratic Representatives James Clyburn (SC), Chris Van Hollen (MD) and Nita Lowey (NY).

The budget committee is to report by December 13 on a plan for a final funding bill for the 2014 fiscal year but also to attempt to replace the sequester cuts, which already slashed education funding by roughly $3 billion in fiscal 2013.

The cuts are having a disproportionate impact on higher-poverty communities and the students most in need. Nationwide, one in four children attends school in a district that depends on the federal government for 15-20 percent of its education funding. Some 57,000 Head Start slots have been lost. Federal education funding is at pre-2004 levels although our nation’s schools now serve 6 million more students.

It’s time to replace the sequester with a responsible, balanced plan that avoids further pain for students, families, and communities while ensuring that corporations and the wealthiest Americans pay their fair share of taxes.

TAKE ACTION TODAY! – Tell Congress to end the education funding cuts.

URGE THE HOUSE TO ACT NOW ON IMMIGRATION REFORM


Despite resistance from some House Republicans, pressure for the House to act on immigration reform this year is building. President Obama, immigration reform advocates, and the business community have stepped up calls for action, but more pressure is needed.

The NEA-supported Border Security, Economic Opportunity, and Immigration Modernization Act (H.R. 15), which is closely modeled after the bipartisan bill passed by the Senate in June, provides a 13-year pathway to citizenship for aspiring Americans and a five-year expedited pathway to citizenship for eligible DREAMers.

The time is now for the House to act. 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! – Urge your Representative to co-sponsor and support the Border Security, Economic Opportunity, and Immigration Modernization Act (H.R. 15).

SENATE VOTE NEARS ON ENDING WORKPLACE DISCRIMINATION


The Senate may vote in the next two weeks on the NEA-supported Employment Non-Discrimination Act of 2013 (or ENDA). Too many educators have been the victims of employment discrimination based on sexual orientation. ENDA (H.R. 1755/S. 815) prohibits discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity in most workplaces, and extends 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 support and co-sponsor ENDA.

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. The E-Rate program is a vital resource for enhancing student learning, providing discounts for telecommunications and Internet services to schools nationwide.

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 November 8. NEA encourages members to weigh in – it is critical that educators are heard and share their stories. Filing comments is simple. If possible, include a brief example of how you use, or would like to use, Internet-enabled technology in the classroom. Click here for step-by-step instructions and a sample letter.

CHEERS AND JEERS


Cheers to:

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Representative Chaka Fattah (D-PA) for sponsoring an NEA-led Congressional briefing by professor and researcher Dr. Kevin Welner on new research on the “opportunity gap” in access to education. The standing-room-only briefing, “Closing the Opportunity Gap: What America Must Do to Give Every Child an Even Chance,” was before the Congressional Black Caucus, Congressional Hispanic Caucus, and Congressional Asian Pacific American Caucus.

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President Barack Obama for pressing the case for House action on comprehensive immigration reform: “It’s good for our economy, it’s good for our national security, it’s good for our people and we should do it this year.”

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Representative Mike Honda (D-CA) for urging action on immigration reform: “It is important to remember that we are all immigrants here, whether we arrived at these shores last month or last century. The best way to honor our diversity and legacy of inclusion is to continue to welcome others.”

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Representatives Jared Polis (D-CO) and Barbara Lee (D-CA) for leading a House effort with a sign-on letter calling for an end to the devastating sequester cuts and protecting against any effort to shift defense cuts to non-defense discretionary programs like education. “[A]ny relief from the $109 billion in FY 2014 sequestration cuts must maintain parity between defense and non-defense programs … special treatment to the Pentagon would discount the needs of millions of Americans who rely on federal dollars for life-saving medical treatments; school-readiness programs; housing; research and innovation; job security; and food safety, among numerous other programs that have been automatically reduced.”

Jeers to:

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Representative Paul Broun (R-GA) for introducing and Representative Steve King (R-IA) for co-sponsoring H. Res. 326 to prevent inclusion of a pathway to citizenship for aspiring Americans in any immigration reform bill.

October 18, 2013

SHUTDOWN OVER AND DEFAULT AVOIDED, NOW TELL CONGRESS TO GET IT RIGHT AND STOP EDUCATION CUTS


With a potential breach of the nation’s debt ceiling just hours away, the Senate voted 81-18 and the House voted 285-144 to pass an NEA-supported bipartisan compromise that funds the federal government through January 15, raises the debt ceiling through February 7, and sets up a conference committee that will aim by December 13 to reconcile vast differences between House and Senate budgets to help set up a final funding bill for the 2014 fiscal year.

“After more than two weeks of unnecessary turmoil and pain, we are relieved that Congress has finally reached a bipartisan agreement to get past, for now, the current crisis,” said NEA President Dennis Van Roekel. “Though this is an improvement, it is by no means a triumph. While it prevents the economic calamity that a debt default would bring, reopens the federal government and stops a long-term locking in of devastating sequester cuts, it only delays the same battles for a few months. During that time, we are hopeful that more reasonable voices will prevail so that we do not relive this saga again.”

The sequester has already slashed education funding by nearly $3 billion, hitting the most vulnerable 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. Some 57,000 Head Start slots have been lost. Education funding is at pre-2004 levels although our nation’s schools now serve 6 million more students.

Congress needs to end the austerity approach that is hurting students. “We remain deeply committed to pushing Congress to find a responsible, balanced and long-term plan to replace the sequester cuts, avoid further pain on students, families and communities, and ensure that the wealthiest and corporations pay their fair share, including by closing costly tax loopholes,” Van Roekel said.

TAKE ACTION TODAY! – Tell Congress to get it right and end the cuts in education funding with the final FY 2014 funding bill.

URGE CONGRESS TO END CORPORATE TAX LOOPHOLES


One way to prevent a continuation of the deep cuts to education and other critical programs is by closing costly corporate tax loopholes. The Stop Tax Haven Abuse Act (S. 1533/H.R. 1554), introduced by Senator Carl Levin (D-MI) and Representative Lloyd Doggett (D-TX), would raise roughly $220 billion in revenue over 10 years, according to the Joint Committee on Taxation, by ending tax-avoidance schemes such as transferring intellectual property and the income it generates to offshore subsidiaries and setting up offshore shell corporations – often nothing more than a post office box.

Budget cuts and tax dodging are inextricably linked. For example, the “carried interest” gimmick for hedge fund managers cuts their tax rate in half and costs the Treasury in $1.7 billion in revenue – more than half the $3 billion by which the sequester has slashed education funding. Closing loopholes that allow the wealthy and corporations to avoid paying taxes is an essential part of a balanced approach to ending the austerity approach and re-investing in education.

TAKE ACTION TODAY! – Tell your Senators and Representative to cosponsor and support the Stop Tax Haven Abuse Act (S. 1533/H.R. 1554).

PUSH THE HOUSE TO PASS COMPREHENSIVE IMMIGRATION REFORM


“We still need to pass a law to fix our broken immigration system,” said President Obama in his statement applauding the bipartisan agreement that ended the government shutdown and lifted the debt ceiling. The Senate has acted, but the House has stalled action. NEA supports the Border Security, Economic Opportunity, and Immigration Modernization Act (H.R. 15), which is closely modeled after the bipartisan Senate-passed bill, and would provide a 13-year pathway to citizenship for aspiring Americans and a five-year expedited pathway to citizenship for eligible DREAMers.

The time is now for the House to act. 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! – Urge your Representative to co-sponsor and support the Border Security, Economic Opportunity, and Immigration Modernization Act (H.R. 15).

CHEERS AND JEERS


Cheers to:

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Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (NV) for standing firm and demonstrating that bipartisan compromise is still possible even in the deeply polarized climate of Washington today. As he said, “The compromise we reached will provide our economy with the stability it desperately needs.”

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Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (KY) for working with Senator Reid to reach the eleventh-hour deal that averted catastrophe. “My hat goes off to Senator McConnell,” said New York Senator Chuck Schumer. “Once he saw that Speaker Boehner and the House were tied in a total knot, he knew he had an obligation to step up.” McConnell also firmly said the GOP will not go down the shutdown route again in January: “A government shutdown is off the table,” he said Thursday.

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Senators John McCain (R-AZ) and Johnny Isakson (R-GA) for their response to the debacle of the last two weeks. “I hope we’ve learned this lesson so we wouldn’t do it again for a while,” said McCain. “[T]he long-term impact is probably that it will never happen again,” said Isakson.

Jeers to:

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Senator Ted Cruz (R-TX) and the Tea Party faction in Congress for leading the shutdown effort in a failed attempt to defund or delay the Affordable Care Act. Standards and Poor calculated that the nearly three-week shutdown cost the economy $24 billion.

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Representative Tim Huelskamp (R-KS) for saying the shutdown and near debt default was worth it, and suggesting the GOP should provoke another confrontation in January, when the stopgap spending measure expires. Referring to those who think the shutdown was a loss for the GOP, he said “There are some folks that might change their opinion if they have a primary challenger.”

October 11, 2013

NEA LAUNCHES AD CAMPAIGN: URGE CONGRESS TO END THE SHUTDOWN, PREVENT DEFAULT AND STOP SEQUESTER CUTS


As the second week of the government shutdown draws to an end, there are some signs that negotiations are taking shape to end the shutdown and to avoid a national default on our debt. President Obama met this week with Democratic and Republican caucuses from the House and Senate.

In addition to the ongoing problems created by the shutdown, the next looming deadline hits Thursday, October 17, by which time Treasury Secretary Jack Lew has said Congress must raise the debt ceiling to avert a default and shake the economy. While House Republicans floated a six-week-only extension of the debt ceiling, Senate Democrats may bring an NEA-supported measure to extend it to December 31, 2014, to the floor for a vote this Saturday.

This weekend, NEA is launching a TV and online ad campaign – “Not a Game” – aimed at pressuring wavering Republicans to stand up to the Tea Party-led faction that helped cause the government shutdown and brought the country to the brink of a default. Read NEA’s statement on the campaign.

The need to end the government shutdown grows by the day, as more students and families are impacted. This week, the National Association of Federally Impacted Schools reported that at least 26 school districts are worried about delays in critical federal Impact Act expected in early November. NAFIS predicts that 50 to 60 more districts could soon find themselves in a financial bind, with rural schools near Native American reservations at greatest risk.

Meanwhile, the halt in financial aid for active-duty service members during the shutdown is jeopardizing their academic progress and forcing some to withdraw from classes, according to officials at colleges with large military populations, Inside Higher Ed reports.

NEA has asked members to share their stories about the local impact of the shutdown and the sequester cuts. Here’s what two of them had to say:

  • “We are angry that the grown men who we elected to represent us are acting like little kids trying to get the upper hand. Forget your stupid politics, Congressmen, and start doing something for your people!” wrote a California educator.
  • “I work for Head Start, we lost several centers, several staff, an entire department and several student/family slots … my daughter’s school district has been adversely affected as well. Last year in just the fifth grade she capped off at 60 (sixty!) students in her class,” wrote a Colorado educator.

NEA continues to urge an end to sequester-level cuts in a final FY14 funding bill. The sequester cuts have hit the most vulnerable 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.

TAKE ACTION TODAY! – Tell Congress to pass a clean funding bill to re-open the government, avoid a national default on debt, and end sequester level cuts in any final FY 2014 funding bill.

TELL YOUR REPRESENTATIVE TO SUPPORT COMPREHENSIVE IMMIGRATION REFORM BILL


Thousands of people in more than 175 cities across America rallied on Oct. 5 in support of comprehensive immigration reform, culminating a few days later in a March and Rally for Immigrant Dignity and Respect on Capitol Hill. NEA Executive Director John Stocks spoke at the rally and participated in a civil disobedience action. Read his personal story here.

Participants urged the House to pass the NEA-supported H.R. 15, a comprehensive immigration reform measure introduced by Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-CA). Closely modeled after the bipartisan measure that passed the Senate in June, H.R. 15 would provide a 13-year pathway to citizenship for aspiring Americans and a five-year expedited pathway to citizenship for eligible DREAMers.

The time is now for the House to act. 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! – Urge your Representative to co-sponsor and support passage of H.R. 15, comprehensive immigration reform.

CHEERS AND JEERS


Cheers to:

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Representatives Rosa DeLauro (D-CT) and George Miller (D-CA) for issuing a new report detailing the harmful impact of continued budget cuts on children. “Even before sequestration took effect, deficit reduction was taking place on the backs of poor and middle class Americans. This madness must stop. Congress needs to get America back to the business of helping the economy grow and enabling America’s children and families to succeed, not mindlessly tearing down services that are critical to millions of people across the country.”

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Senator Jeff Flake (R-AZ) for adding his voice to the growing list of Republicans calling for an end to the government shutdown: “I don’t think we’re serving any policy or political goals by keeping the government shut down.”

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Representative Lois Frankel (D-FL) for spearheading a Congressional letter to Malala Yousafzai, the heroic Pakistani girl who survived an assassination attempt by the Taliban for speaking out about the need for girls’ education. From the letter: “We share your vision of equitable education as a basic human right ... Where girls have access to quality education, their communities enjoy greater economic growth, democracy, and social justice.”

Jeers to:

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Senator Rand Paul (R-KY) for questioning the threat of national default absent a raising of the debt limit. “If you don’t raise the debt ceiling that means you won’t have a balanced budget, it doesn’t mean you wouldn’t pay your bills,” he said.

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Represenative Lynn Westmoreland (R-GA) for suggesting that before Republicans agree to end the government shutdown – which is preventing hundreds of thousands of Americans from receiving paychecks and harming students – they need a political win. He said the caucus needed “some type of win out of this” – and more than just getting Obama to the table. “But we need something a little bit more than a moral win.”

October 3, 2013

AS SHUTDOWN DRAGS ON, IMPACT ON STUDENTS GROWS; TELL CONGRESS: FINAL DEAL NEEDS TO END SEQUESTER CUTS


As the federal government shutdown continues, the impact on our nation’s students mounts. Some 19,000 preschoolers could lose their seats in Head Start because of the shutdown – and that’s on top of the 57,000 Head Start seats eliminated and nearly $3 billion in education funding cut earlier this year due to the sequester’s across-the-board cuts.

“Our students, and our country deserve better,” said NEA President Dennis Van Roekel. “It is time to put students and the American people ahead of uncompromising, partisan politics.”

The impact of the shutdown is growing: field trips to national parks and landmarks have been cancelled; comments to the FCC on modernizing the E-Rate program are on hold; the Veterans Benefits Administration Education Call Center has shut down; and furloughing civilian faculty members has forced the U.S. Naval Academy to cancel 20 percent of its classes, the U.S. Coast Guard Academy to cancel tutoring and other academic support services for students, and West Point to double the size of some classes.

NEA has asked for members to share the impacts they are seeing on their students because of the shutdown. A few examples:

  • “My 31 fifth grade students were devastated to learn that our field trip to Lassen Volcanic National Park will most likely need to be cancelled due to the government shutdown. My students deserve better from their government!” said a California educator.
  • “Every year we take our students from a low income school to visit the Oregon Caves National Monument. They learn about geology, geography, the scientific method and watershed management. That is in jeopardy now. Many of these students will never have an experience like this again,” said an Oregon educator.

Looking ahead, the shutdown battle may morph into a larger fiscal battle over lifting the debt ceiling. Congress must raise or extend it by Oct. 17 or the U.S. government will default for the first time in our nation’s history, says Treasury Secretary Jack Lew.

NEA continues to urge an end to sequester-level cuts in any funding bill, but especially a final FY 2014 funding measure. The sequester cuts have hit the most vulnerable 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.

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. Congress should replace the sequester level cuts with new revenues, including closing corporate tax loopholes.

TAKE ACTION TODAY! – Tell Congress to oppose any final FY 2014 funding bill that continues the sequester.

HOUSE LEADERS INTRODUCE COMPREHENSIVE IMMIGRATION REFORM BILL; URGE SUPPORT FOR IT


On Wednesday, House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-CA), along with Reps. Joe Garcia (D-FL), Judy Chu (D-CA), Suzan DelBene (D-WA), Steven Horsford (D-NV) and Jared Polis (D-CO), introduced the Border Security, Economic Opportunity and Immigration Modernization Act (H.R. 15), a comprehensive immigration reform bill.

Closely modeled after the NEA-supported S. 744, which passed the Senate with strong bipartisan support in June, H.R. 15 would provide a 13-year pathway to citizenship for aspiring Americans and a five-year expedited pathway to citizenship for eligible DREAMers.

The time is now for the House to act. 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! – Urge your Representative to co-sponsor and support passage of H.R. 15, comprehensive immigration reform.

CHEERS AND JEERS


Cheers to:

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21 House Republicans who have publicly voiced their support for a no-strings-attached short-term CR that would reopen the federal government: Reps. Lou Barletta (PA), Charlie Dent (PA), Mario Diaz-Balart (FL), Mike Fitzpatrick (PA), Randy Forbes (VA), Jim Gerlach (PA), Michael Grimm (NY), Richard Hanna (MA), Leonard Lance (NJ), Frank LoBiondo (NJ), Pat Meehan (PA), Peter King (NY), Devin Nunes (CA), Erik Paulsen (MN), Scott Rigell (VA), Mike Rogers (MI), Jon Runyan (NJ), Mike Simpson (ID), Bill Young (FL), Rob Wittman (VA), and Frank Wolf (VA). Said Rogers in supporting a temporary clean CR: “I think that would be the adult way to approach it.”

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Senate Appropriations Chairwoman Barbara Mikulski (D-MD) in continuing to press the case to end the shutdown and pass a long-term funding bill that ends sequester-level cuts: “So that’s what this is all about. This isn’t about numbers. This isn’t about wonky ideas. This is about meeting compelling human needs. In the Labor-HHS subcommittee we fund NIH, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the Social Security Administration, Mining Safety, Department of Education. This is what we should be working on, education, funding for the disabled.”

Jeers to:

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House Republican leadership for capitulating to far-right pressure and shutting down the government in an effort to defund and derail the Affordable Care Act. Among the numerous problems caused by the shutdown, it could cost up to 19,000 at-risk children a place in the Head Start program – on top of the 57,000 children who have already lost their places due to previous funding cuts from the sequester.

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Representative Marlin Stutzman (R-IN) for his comments on making preservation of the GOP’s image a higher priority than the well-being of our nation’s students: “We’re not going to be disrespected. We have to get something out of this [the government shutdown]. And I don’t know what that even is.”