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Federal Legislative Update November 2013

November 22, 2013
November 15, 2013
November 8, 2013
November 1, 2013

November 22, 2013

Urge Congress to end the sequester, invest in education

Time is getting short for a budget agreement as Democrats and Republicans remain far apart leading up to the Dec. 13 deadline for the conference committee tasked with trying to find a way to replace sequestration. As progress remains elusive, NEA and the American Association of School Administrators issued a joint statement on Thursday urging Congress to end the sequester cuts in education funding that are devastating high-poverty communities. NEA President Dennis Van Roekel said, “We continue to experience deep cuts to critical education programs, especially for low-income and students with special needs. We are America, and we are better than this.”

Federal funding is 12 percent or more of school revenues in one-third of our nation’s school districts, according to AASA’s new report, “Unequal Pain: Federal Public Education Revenues, Federal Education Cuts & the Impact on Public Schools.” A similar, earlier NEA analysis found that one out of every four students attends public schools in districts where 15-20 percent of total revenue is from federal sources, meaning the federal sequester cuts are more harmful to these schools and their students.

TAKE ACTION TODAY! — Tell Congress to cancel the sequester and invest in education.

Tell Congress to broaden access to quality pre-K

Fifteen Senators have now signed on as co-sponsors of the NEA-supported Strong Start for America’s Children Act (S. 1697/H.R. 3461), introduced in both chambers last week with backing on both sides of the political aisle. The bill would promote high-quality learning opportunities for children from birth to age 5, with an emphasis on high-quality prekindergarten for 4-year olds from low- and moderate-income families. Such programs are highly cost-effective and a proven means of closing achievement gaps.

TAKE ACTION TODAY! — Urge your Senators and Representative to support and co-sponsor the Strong Start for America’s Children Act.

Urge your Senators to support raising the federal minimum wage

The Senate is preparing to vote on a revised Fair Minimum Wage Act of 2013 (S. 1737) when it returns from the Thanksgiving recess. Today’s federal minimum wage of $7.25 an hour translates to $15,080 for a full-time, year-round worker. The bill would raise the federal minimum wage to $10.10 an hour in three steps. NEA strongly supports the measure, noting that many of our education support professionals need to work multiple jobs just to support their families.

TAKE ACTION TODAY! — Urge your Senator to vote for the Fair Minimum Wage Act of 2013

Bipartisan support for career and technical education builds in the House

At a Wednesday hearing, Democrats and Republicans on the House Education and the Workforce Committee spoke favorably on the expected reauthorization next year of the Carl D. Perkins Career and Technical Education Act, which provides federal funding to states to support career-readiness programs for high school and community college students. The hearing was also notable for the bipartisan criticism of an Administration plan to create a $100 million competitive grant program within Perkins, as members instead talked about the importance of maintaining formula grant funding. Click here to see NEA’s principles for reauthorization of the Perkins Act.

Historic change in Senate rules to stop obstructionism

Invoking the so-called “nuclear option,” the Senate voted 52-48 to change its rules to stop continued abuse of the filibuster that has prevented action on numerous judicial and executive branch nominations. The action likely clears the way for approval of three judges recently nominated by President Obama to serve on the D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals. Under the Senate’s new rules, nominees can be approved by a simple majority vote. It does not apply to legislation or nominees to the Supreme Court, where 60 votes are still needed to end a filibuster.

CHEERS AND JEERS

Cheers to:

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13 top GOP appropriators for sending a letter to the budget conference committee urging agreement on an overall funding level to avoid sequester cuts: Hal Rogers (KY), Frank Wolf (VA), Jack Kingston (GA), Rodney Frelinghuysen (NJ), Tom Latham (IA), Robert Aderholt (AL), Kay Granger (TX), Mike Simpson (ID), John Culberson (TX), Ander Crenshaw (FL), John Carter (TX), Ken Calvert (CA), and Tom Cole (OK).

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Representatives Susan Brooks (R-IN) and Brett Guthrie (R-KY) for expressing concern over stigmatizing students enrolled in career and technical education programs, and Representative John Tierney (D-MA) for highlighting the importance of professional development for CTE faculty during the House Education and Workforce Committee’s hearing on reauthorization of the Perkins Act.

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Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV) and Sens. Tom Harkin (D-IA), Jeff Merkley (D-OR), and Tom Udall (D-NM) for spearheading the change in Senate rules that will henceforth allow a simple majority to approve most presidential nominees.

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Representative Jan Schakowsky (D-IL) for joining the “Fast for Families,” started November 12 on the National Mall, to spur House action and give DREAMer students and their families the up-or-down vote on immigration reform they deserve.

Jeers to:

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Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) for supporting a continuation of the sequester level funding cuts in a final funding bill for fiscal year 2014, and urging his House Republican counterparts to do the same.

November 15, 2013

Bipartisan bill to expand early childhood education introduced

The NEA-supported, bipartisan Strong Start for America’s Children Act . (H.R. 3461/S. 1697), introduced in the House and Senate on Wednesday, would promote high-quality learning opportunities for children from birth to age 5. This vital legislation would help states fund high-quality prekindergarten for 4-year olds from low-income families; encourage states to support prekindergarten for 4-year-olds from moderate-income families; and encourage learning opportunities for even younger children — for example, through partnerships with Early Head Start programs. NEA President Dennis Van Roekel said, “High-quality early childhood education and full-day kindergarten are fundamental to a student’s long term success and shouldn’t be determined by their parents’ income… [It] is the right thing to do.”


TAKE ACTION TODAY! Urge your Senators and Representative to support and co-sponsor the Strong Start for America’s Children Act.


Budget conference committee meets again but no signs of progress

The budget conference committee charged with developing an agreement for a final funding bill for fiscal 2014 held its second public meeting on Wednesday, but there remain no real signs of progress as the Dec. 13 deadline approaches. Also this week, NDD United — an alliance of more than 3,200 national, state, and local organizations that includes NEA — released Faces of Austerity: How Budget Cuts Have Made Us Sicker, Poorer, and Less Secure, which documents the impact of the sequester through statistics and interviews with people who testify to its impact based on personal experience. As the report says, “You have to talk to Americans, face-to-face, if you really want to understand the effects of budget cuts.”


TAKE ACTION TODAY! — Tell Congress to cancel the sequester and invest in education.

NEA files reply comments on E-Rate modernization plan

In response to more than 700 comments on the Federal Communications Commission’s proposal to modernize the E-Rate program — which discounts the cost of telecommunications and Internet services for schools and libraries — NEA filed “reply comments” emphasizing that the funding cap must be doubled permanently and adjusted for inflation annually. NEA also observed that the E-Rate program is the “ideal vehicle” for President Obama’s ConnectEd initiative, which aims to equip schools and libraries serving 99 percent of our students with next-generation high-capacity broadband and wireless connectivity. Click here to read NEA’s reply comments.


Cheers and jeers

Cheers to:

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Senator Tom Harkin (D-IA) and Representatives George Miller (D-CA) and Richard Hanna (R-NY) for their bipartisan introduction of the Strong Start for America’s Children Act. Rep. Hanna held up a photo of his own pre-school age children and said, “I am the first Republican to support this bill, but I will not be the last.”

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Senate Budget Committee Chair Patty Murray (D-WA) for her take on a final budget agreement for fiscal 2014: [Democrats] can find responsible savings across the federal budget to get to a fair deal. Compromise, however, runs both ways. While we scour programs to identify savings, Republicans have to work with us to scour the bloated tax code and close loopholes used by the wealthiest Americans and corporations …”

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Senator Sherrod Brown for pushing for action on the Fair Minimum Wage Act of 2013 (S. 460/H.R. 1010), which would raise the minimum wage to $10.10 an hour in three steps and provide the first raise for tipped workers in 20 years: “It’s so much the right thing to do. There are so many people living on the minimum wage and … [t]he tipped wage has been stuck at $2.19 since 1990.”

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Senators Kay Hagan (D-NC) and Mark Kirk (R-IL) for introducing the Senate resolution honoring American Education Week, and Representatives Michael Grimm (R-NY) and Mark Takano (D-CA) for introducing the House resolution honoring American Education Week with these original cosponsors: Representatives Joyce Beatty (D-OH), Richard Hanna (R-NY), Brad Schneider (D-IL), Peter King (R-NY), Tim Walz (D-MN), Jon Runyan (R-NJ), Jared Polis (D-CO), Chris Gibson (R-NY), John Lewis (D-GA), Eleanor Holmes Norton (D-DC), Ruben Hinojosa (D-TX), Sheila Jackson Lee (D-TX), Pat Meehan (R-PA), Patrick Murphy (D-FL), Greg Walden (R-OR), Gerry Connolly (D-VA) and Jim McGovern (D-MA).

Jeers to:

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Senator Jeff Sessions (R-AL) for intransigence and ignoring the human suffering caused by the sequester at the second public meeting of the budget conference committee: “Washington has no right to ask taxpayers for a single additional dollar … This committee has an opportunity to restore the people’s trust in Congress by identifying ways to make government leaner, less wasteful, and more accountable. Would that not be a moral good — indeed, a moral imperative?”

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Speaker John Boehner (R-OH) for declaring that he will not negotiate over the Senate’s immigration reform bill: “Frankly, I’ll make clear, we have no intention of ever going to conference on the Senate bill.”

November 8, 2013

ENDA passed by the Senate — Turn up the heat on the House!

The Senate passed the NEA-supported Employment Non-Discrimination Act of 2013 (or ENDA) by a vote of 64-32 this week. Now, it’s time for the House to act. Employment discrimination against lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) workers violates the core American values of fairness and equality, yet it is currently legal in more than half the states. When educators are discriminated against because of their sexual orientation or gender identity, it sends a terrible message to LGBT students as well. ENDA is a critical step in addressing basic civil rights in the workplace as well as a matter of basic fairness.

TAKE ACTION TODAY! — Tell your Representative to support ENDA.

Update on fiscal 2014 budget negotiations

Behind the scenes work continued this week for the budget conference committee charged with developing an agreement for a final funding bill for fiscal 2014. Last week, NEA urged the committee to end the indiscriminate sequester cuts and chart a responsible fiscal path that includes raising additional revenue — for example, by closing corporate tax loopholes and making the wealthy pay their fair share. Under the terms of the agreement that ended the government shut-down, the committee is to report out by December 13.

TAKE ACTION TODAY! — Tell Congress to cancel the sequester and invest in education.

Still time to comment on E-Rate modernization if you act fast

Friday is the deadline for submitting comments to the Federal Communications Commission on modernizing the E-Rate program, which discounts the cost of telecommunications and Internet services for schools and libraries. Tell the FCC how using the Internet in your classroom enhances student learning. Click here for step-by-step instructions and a sample letter. Next week, we will share NEA’s reply comments to the FCC on key issues.

Cheers and Jeers

Cheers to:

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Sen. Mark Kirk (R-IL) for his comments in support of the Employment Non-Discrimination Act (ENDA) — his first remarks on the Senate floor since surviving a massive stroke two years ago: “I think it’s particularly appropriate for an Illinois Republican to speak on behalf of this measure. In the true tradition of Everett McKinley Dirksen and Abraham Lincoln, men who gave us the 1964 Civil Rights Act and the 13th Amendment to the Constitution.”

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10 Republican Senators who crossed party lines and joined 52 Democrats and 2 Independents to vote for ENDA: Kelly Ayotte (NH), Susan Collins (ME), Jeff Flake (AZ), Orrin Hatch (UT), Dean Heller (NV), Mark Kirk (IL), John McCain (AZ), Lisa Murkowski (AK), Rob Portman (OR), and Pat Toomey (PA)

thumbsup Sens. Barbara Mikulski (D-MD) and Patty Murray (D-WA), who chair the Senate Appropriations Committee and Senate Budget Committee, respectively, for continuing to lead the charge and make the case to replace the devastating sequester-level cuts in a final budget deal.

Jeers to:

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House Speaker John Boehner for his reaction to the Senate moving forward on ENDA and its prospects in the House: “The Speaker believes this legislation will increase frivolous litigation and cost American jobs, especially small business jobs,” said a statement released by his office.

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Sens. Mitch McConnell (R-KY) and Rand Paul (R-KY) for introducing a right-to-work amendment to the ENDA legislation.

November 1, 2013

 

URGE CONGRESS TO END SEQUESTRATION, INVEST IN EDUCATION


The budget conference committee charged with developing a final funding bill for fiscal 2014 held its first public meeting on Wednesday. Noting that education funding has already been slashed by $3 billion this year, NEA urged the committee to end the indiscriminate sequester cuts and chart a responsible fiscal path that includes additional revenue, including closing corporate tax loopholes and making the wealthy pay their fair share. And, if Congress chooses to cancel the sequester cuts to defense — as some are calling for — the same dollar-for-dollar protection should be provided to non-defense discretionary spending, including education.

The sequester 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.

SENATE COULD VOTE NEXT WEEK ON ENDING WORKPLACE DISCRIMINATION


The Senate could vote as early as next week 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.

HOUSE MOMENTUM? SPEAK UP FOR COMPREHENSIVE IMMIGRATION REFORM


Three Republicans have joined the ranks of the 188 co-sponsors of 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. 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 the Border Security, Economic Opportunity, and Immigration Modernization Act (H.R. 15).

TELL CONGRESS STUDENTS WILL SUFFER IF SNAP IS SLASHED


The 41-member conference committee on the farm bill — which funds public nutrition and food aid programs for students nationwide, as well as crop insurance and agricultural subsidies — held its first public meeting on Wednesday. A major point of contention is likely to be the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), formerly known as food stamps, which serves more than 47 million people almost half of whom are children.

The bill passed by the House, H.R. 1947, would cut SNAP by a stunning $40 billion over ten years and eliminate eligibility for school meals for families, potentially cutting more than 200,000 children from the school meals program. The bill passed by the Senate, S. 954, would cut SNAP by $4 billion over ten years.

Our nation’s students will suffer if SNAP is slashed. Grade school children who sometimes or often did not get enough to eat had markedly lower math scores and were more likely to have to repeat a grade, according to research published in the journal Pediatrics. Teenagers in similar circumstances were three times more likely to be suspended from school than those who routinely got enough to eat.

TAKE ACTION TODAY! — Tell Congress what slashing SNAP would mean for your students.

HOW DOES E-RATE ENHANCE STUDENT LEARNING? TELL THE FCC BY NOVEMBER 8


Friday, November 8 is the deadline for submitting comments to the Federal Communications Commission on its proposal to modernize the E-Rate program, which enhances student learning by discounting the cost of telecommunication and Internet services. In its comments, NEA called for a doubling of the E-Rate cap. It is critical that educators are heard and share their stories — for example, 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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Budget Conference Committee Co-chair Senator Patty Murray (D-WA) for her opening statement, in which she observes that “[C]ompromise runs both ways. While we scour programs to find responsible savings, Republicans are also going to have to work with us to scour the bloated tax code — and close some wasteful tax loopholes and special interest subsidies … Sequestration is bad policy — and Democrats and Republicans have said it’s not sustainable — but it is going to continue to cost us jobs and cut vital services until we get a bipartisan deal to replace it that is fair for seniors and the middle class.”

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Representative James Clyburn (D-SC), Assistant Democratic Leader and a member of the budget conference committee, for succinctly making the point that sequestration is harming the economy: “Cutting investment cuts jobs, and cutting jobs is not the way to reduce the deficit.”

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Representatives Jeff Denham (R-CA), Ileana Ros-Lehtinen (R-FL), and David Valadao (R-CA) for becoming the first three House Republicans to co-sponsor H.R. 15, the comprehensive immigration reform bill that includes a 13-year pathway to citizenship for aspiring Americans and a five-year expedited pathway to citizenship for eligible DREAMers.

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Representatives Jared Polis (D-CO), Joe Garcia (D-FL), Sheila Jackson Lee (D-TX), Mark Takano (D-CA), and Tony Cardenas (D-CA) for holding a “special orders session” on the House floor where they talked about the cost of inaction on immigration reform.

Jeers to:

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Representative Tom Price (R-GA), a member of the budget conference committee, for his comments that ignore the fact that federal funding for non-defense discretionary programs, like education, are on a path to be the lowest point as a share of the economy on record: “Washington spends more and more and more, and yet our problems are getting worse and worse and worse. Taking more out of the pockets of hard-working Americans just to satiate Washington won’t solve anything. And at this point, a bailout for politicians — in the form of more taxes — so they can continue to spend well beyond our means is a recipe for more fiscal and economic pain.”

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Representative Mike McCaul (R-TX), chair of the House Homeland Security Committee, for urging House Speaker John Boehner to stop any action on immigration reform. “I am not gonna go down the road of conferencing with the Senate [comprehensive immigration reform] bill,” McCaul said on a conservative radio show Wednesday. “And I told Boehner that he needs to stand up and make that very clear that we are not going to conference with the Senate on this. We’re not going to conference with the Senate, period.”

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