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Federal Legislative Update December 2013

December 20, 2013
December 13, 2013
December 6, 2013

December 20, 2013

Tell Congress to undo cuts in core programs like Title I and IDEA

President Obama will shortly sign into law the NEA-supported Bipartisan Budget Act of 2013, which replaces $63 billion in sequester cuts this year and next. How the money will be divvied up is still to be determined. America’s most vulnerable students have borne a disproportionate share of the sequester cuts. To help mitigate the damage, this week NEA joined the American Federation of Teachers, American Association of School Administrators, Council of the Great City Schools, and National Schools Boards Association in urging the appropriators crafting the Labor-HHS-Education and other funding bills (the current stopgap spending law expires Jan. 15) to make undoing the cuts in core formula grant programs that benefit students most in need, like Title I and IDEA, a top priority.

TAKE ACTION TODAY! Tell Congress to restore funding for core formula grant programs like Title I and IDEA.

New Year’s resolution: extending unemployment insurance

Just three days after Christmas, some 1.3 million people who have been unemployed longer than 26 weeks will lose their unemployment benefits. Protecting unemployment insurance is critical to ensuring family stability and, consequently, the well-being of thousands of children in our public schools. NEA is working with House and Senate leadership and the White House to push to address this issue when Congress returns to Washington after the beginning of the new year.

Thank you, cyber-lobbyists, for these victories!

From Capitol Hill to the classroom, your voice AND your membership matter. NEA thanks all 669,199 of our cyber-lobbyists — and extends a special thank you to the top 50 cyber-lobbyists of 2013:

Garrick Balk, IL
Rhonda Braylock, OH
Rebecca Brown, OH
Carmelo Camillieri, NY
Patricia Carlin, IL
Linda Casey, NJ
Cecelia Collins, WI
Ryan Danzinger, IL
Katherine Elliott, OH
Melissa Fleming, MA
Esther Garvett, FL
Kathy Goetz, PA
Annabel Gunsallus, VA
Abigail Hall, MI
Art Hanson, MI
Robert "Hank" Haynes, OH
Zachary Houp, PA
Jeffrey Jedd, IL
Jonathan Kern, PA
Joy Kirk, VA
Daniel Klipa, PA
David Koeller, WI
Debra Krikourian, CA
Janine Lazor, PA
Don Mangus, CO

Cari Manzer, OK
Douglas Marinos, PA
Tony Marra, FL
Robert Moeller, NY
Cassandra Montague, NJ
Alvin Nash, CA
Patricia Orlinski, AZ
Irene Rathier, RI
Kay Reinfried, PA
Kenneth Robertson, MO
Heid Sandmeier, MN
Pat Schumacher, TX
Christopher Sego, FL
Madeline Shapiro, CA
Chasidy Simplot, WI
Julie Skelton, MI
Georgia Smickley, PA
Marjorie Smith, PA
Guy Stanley, TN
Betty Stoner, PA
Tina, Theuerkauf, VA
Maria Isabel Van Sunder, CA
Rosemary Walker, VA
Ken Weisman, VA
Jacquelin Woods, IL

The 254,388 emails sent to Congress by cyber-lobbyists played a critical role in winning these victories for students and public education in 2013:

  • Secured $600 billion in new revenue for education and other federal programs from expiration of the Bush-era tax cuts for the wealthiest Americans — the first increase in tax rates in 20 years.
  • Passed the NEA-supported Border Security, Economic Opportunity, and Immigration Modernization Act in the Senate, the first comprehensive immigration reform bill that addresses all three NEA priorities: a pathway to citizenship, maintaining family unity, and inclusion of the DREAM Act.
  • Pressured Congress to begin replacing the reckless sequester-level cuts that have limited students’ educational opportunities and stymied the nation’s economic recovery.
  • Eliminated or reduced furloughs for Federal Education Association members, which had threatened to reduce their pay by as much as 20 percent, and would have caused students at Department of Defense schools to lose several days of learning.
  • Achieved bipartisan support for improvements in H.R. 5, the House bill to reauthorize the Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA) — among them, striking problematic teacher evaluation language and ensuring use of multiple measures for school accountability.
  • Passed the NEA-supported Employment Non-Discrimination Act (ENDA) in the Senate, a critical step in addressing civil rights in the workplace as well as a matter of basic fairness.
  • Resisted efforts to undermine retirement security by cutting Social Security benefits and replacing traditional Medicare with “premium support” that would shift a growing share of costs to seniors.
  • Reauthorized and streamlined the Violence Against Women Act (VAWA) — the rate of domestic violence has been cut in half and the number of people who have died at the hands of an intimate partner has fallen by 34 percent for women and by 57 percent for men since the law was first passed in 1994.
  • Extended for two more years the Secure Rural Schools program, which serves students in 4,400 schools in 770 counties near national forests — without the program, in many rural areas schools and libraries would close, mental-health services would end, educators would be laid off, search-and-rescue operations would be curtailed, and prisoners would be released from jails due to lack of funds.

Cheers and Jeers

Cheers to:

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12 Republicans who paved the way for final passageof the Bipartisan Budget Act of 2013 this week by voting to invoke cloture: Senators Lamar Alexander (TN), Roy Blunt (MO), Saxby Chambliss (GA), Susan Collins (ME), Jeff Flake (AZ), Orrin Hatch (UT), John Hoeven (ND), Johnny Isakson (GA), Ron Johnson (WI), John McCain (AZ), Lisa Murkowski (AK), and Rob Portman (OH).

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Senators Jack Reed (D-RI) and Dean Heller (R-NV) for introducing a bill to extend unemployment benefits for three months while Congress works out a longer-term plan.

Jeers to:

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Senator Ted Cruz (R-TX): “The new budget deal moves in the wrong direction: It spends more, taxes more, and allows continued funding for Obamacare. I cannot support it.”

December 13, 2013

Urge your Senators to support the bipartisan budget deal

By a vote of 332-94, the House passed the NEA-supported Bipartisan Budget Act of 2013 negotiated by Senator Patty Murray (D-WA) and Representative Paul Ryan (R-WI), which replaces $63 billion in sequester cuts this year and next. In fiscal 2014 alone, roughly 87 percent of last year’s cuts in non-defense discretionary (NDD) programs would be restored — recognition that slashing programs like education is harming students nationwide. Kids from low-income families and special needs students have been hit especially hard. “Those students are desperately in need … [they] haven’t moved away, they’re still in need, and they’re still in need of services,” said Melanie Charlson, the Montana Education Association’s representative on the NEA Board of Directors, in an interview televised by ABC Fox Montana.

The bill fails to extend benefits for workers unemployed longer than 26 weeks, however. The current program expires on December 28, when payments will be cut off for an estimated 1.3 million individuals. Protecting unemployment insurance is critical to ensuring family stability and, consequently, the well-being of thousands of children in our public schools. NEA will work with the House and the Senate to address this issue first when they return to Washington after the beginning of the new year.

The Senate is expected to vote on the measure early next week

TAKE ACTION TODAY! — Urge your Senators to support the Bipartisan Budget Act of 2013.

Tell Congress not to cut program that feeds poor students

Congress will be heading home for the holidays without conferees reaching agreement on the Farm Bill, which funds the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) as well as crop insurance and agricultural subsidies. Formerly known as food stamps, SNAP serves more than 47 million people, almost half of whom are children. Over the next decade, the bill passed by the House would slash SNAP by a stunning $40 billion while the bill passed by the Senate would cut the program by $4 billion. Students nationwide will suffer if these cuts are allowed to take effect.

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

Encourage your Representative to support immigration reform

On Wednesday, during an online Q&A session, Vice President Joe Biden urged House Speaker John Boehner (R-OH) to bring immigration reform to the floor, saying, “Call up the Senate bill, and this is over.” 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.

TAKE ACTION TODAY! — Tell your Representative to support H.R. 15.

Cheers and Jeers

Cheers to:

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Senator Patty Murray (D-WA) for forging a bipartisan budget agreement while preventing a Republican push to cut Medicaid, Medicare or Social Security: “It’s a good step in the right direction that can hopefully rebuild some trust and serve as a foundation for continued bipartisan work.”

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Maryland Democrats Senator Barbara Mikulski and Representatives Chris Van Hollen and Steny Hoyer for work behind the scenes to mitigate the budget agreement’s impact on federal employees’ retirement, including educators.

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Republican Representatives Chris Gibson (NY), Michael Grimm (NY), Joe Heck (NV), David Joyce (OH), Frank LoBiondo (NJ), Pete King (NY), and Jon Runyan (NJ) for their letter asking House leadership to “consider a temporary extension of emergency unemployment legislation to protect an essential safeguard that has aided Americans who have endured through a weak economy.”

Jeers to:

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Representative Mick Mulvaney (R-SC) for opposing the budget agreement just because it is a compromise with bipartisan support. “This bill is not designed to get our vote. This bill is designed to pass with bipartisan support in the House.”

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Senators Marco Rubio (R-FL) and Rand Paul (R-KY) for opposing the budget agreement. Rubio claims it places “additional financial burdens on everyday Americans” while Paul says it is mistake to give up the sequester: “It’s sort of like, ‘I’ll gladly pay you Tuesday for a hamburger today.’”

December 6, 2013

Urge Congress to put students first, replace the sequester cuts

With just a week until the December 13 deadline for the budget conference committee to attempt to reach agreement on replacements for the sequester cuts and overall funding levels for this year, Senator Patty Murray (D-WA) and Representative Paul Ryan (R-WI) continue negotiations on a small potential deal. A possible agreement could partially replace the across-the-board sequester cuts with targeted spending cuts that would NOT include Medicare, Medicaid or Social Security; new revenue could be provided without hiking taxes — for example, by raising fees for airline ticket purchases. Fully replacing the sequester and restoring education funding to the level in the Senate appropriations bill could help tens of millions of students — up to 23 million served by Title I alone — by providing an additional $5.6 billion for preK-12 through post-secondary programs in fiscal year 2014.

TAKE ACTION TODAY! — Urge Congress to replace the sequester cuts and invest in education.

Tell your Representative to support immigration reform

Amidst growing indications that House Speaker John Boehner (R-OH) is preparing to take up immigration reform legislation in 2014, at least 19 members of NEA’s staff participated in the “Fast for Families,” started November 12, to show support for student DREAMers, their families, and other aspiring Americans. President Barack Obama, Vice President Joe Biden, and some 30 bipartisan members of Congress visited the fasters in their tent on the National Mall to offer encouragement. Closely modeled after the bipartisan bill passed by the Senate in June, the NEA-supported Border Security, Economic Opportunity, and Immigration Modernization Act (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.

TAKE ACTION TODAY! — Tell your Representative to support immigration reform (H.R. 15).

Encourage your Senators to back higher federal minimum wage

The Fair Minimum Wage Act of 2013 (S. 1737) would raise the federal minimum wage from 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. Today’s federal minimum wage of $7.25 an hour is equivalent to an annual salary of $15,080 for a full-time worker.

TAKE ACTION TODAY! — Encourage your Senators to raise the federal minimum wage (S. 1737).

Cheers and Jeers

Cheers to:

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Representatives Rosa DeLauro (D-CT) and Lloyd Doggett (D-TX) for introducing the NEA-supported Sequester Delay and Stop Tax Haven Abuse Act,which would replace the sequester for a couple years by closing corporate tax loopholes.

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House Minority Whip Steny Hoyer (D-MD) for opposing a continuing resolution to fund the government after Jan. 15 unless it addresses the sequester: “I believe that hurts our national security, it hurts our economy and it undermines our responsibility of running government at a level that is productive for our people.”

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Representatives Joe Kennedy (D-MA), Juan Vargas (D-CA), and Joe Garcia (D-FL) for joining the “Fast for Families” on the National Mall this week — each is abstaining from food for 24 hours — to urge the Republican-led House to take up immigration reform.

Jeers to:

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Representative Justin Amash (R-MI) for indicating that a budget deal that provides revenue to replace the sequester cuts is unlikely to get his support “unless we’re going to look at Social Security and Medicare.”

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Representative Tim Huelskamp (R-KS) for supporting preservation of the overall sequester spending level of $967 billion. “[P]ass the sequester and go home,” he said.