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Federal Legislative Update July 2014

July 25, 2014
July 18, 2014
July 11, 2014

July 25, 2014

Share your story about toxic testing, urge Congress to take action

NEA’s campaign to end toxic testing, launched at the Representative Assembly in Denver earlier this month, continues to gather steam. Share your story about the impact of high-stakes testing on your students and urge members of Congress to co-sponsor the Student Testing Improvement and Accountability Act (H.R. 4172) to reduce the number of federally-mandated tests from 14 to 6. Fewer federally-mandated tests would free up time for instruction, enabling educators to give greater attention to the students most in need.

TAKE ACTION TODAY! Urge Congress to reduce the federal role in testing.

House passes higher ed bills, affordability still to be addressed

The House passed three NEA-supported components of the Higher Education Act this week with strong bipartisan support: the Advancing Competency-Based Education Demonstration Project (H.R. 3136), the Strengthening Transparency in Higher Education Act (H.R. 4983), and the Empowering Students through Enhanced Financial Counseling Act (H.R. 4984). NEA’s Degrees Not Debt campaign continues to shine a spotlight on the pressing need to make college more affordable. Next week, NEA student member Alexis Ploss, from New Hampshire, will meet and share her story with the Senate Democratic caucus.

TAKE ACTION TODAY!Tell Congress Americans deserve degrees, not debt.

Speak up for school meal programs

Federal breakfast and lunch programs that together serve 40 million children (Source: U.S. Department of Agriculture) were the subject of a hearing held Wednesday by the Senate Committee on Agriculture, Nutrition and Forestry to prepare for looming reauthorizations and explore the controversy over higher nutrition standards set by the Healthy Hunger-Free Kids Act. The link between good nutrition and academic success is clear, yet 73 percent of educators reported in a recent survey that students in their classrooms regularly come to school hungry because there isn’t enough food at home.

TAKE ACTION TODAY! Tell Congress students need good nutrition to succeed.

Cheers and Jeers

Cheers to:

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Reps. Jan Schakowsky (D-IL) and Tim Ryan (D-OH) for vowing to live with their spouses on $157 a week—roughly the income for two minimum-wage earners after taxes and housing expenses—to underscore the need to raise the federal minimum wage. “It’s not just about helping minimum-wage workers and their families.” Schakowsky said. “It’s also going to make our economy better, because these folks are going to go out and spend that money.”

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House Minority Whip Steny Hoyer (D-MD) and Rep. Aaron Schock (R-IL) for their bipartisan introduction of the NEA-supported Full Service Community Schools Act in the House.

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Reps. Ted Deutch (D-FL), Donna Edwards (D-MD), and Jim McGovern (D-MA) for introducing the House companion (H.J. Res. 119) to the Senate constitutional amendment (S.J. Res. 19) on campaign finance reform, and to House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) for her leadership on the issue.

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Senate Committee on Foreign Relations Chairman Robert Menendez (D-NJ) for taking up the NEA-supported Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities, which passed out of the Committee this week with the support of Republicans John McCain (R-AZ) and John Barasso (R-WY), and all 10 Democrats.

Jeers to:

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House Budget Committee Chairman Paul Ryan (R-OH) for his “anti-poverty“ plan, released on Thursday, which would slash vital programs for children, students, and families ranging from food stamps to Medicaid to aid for higher education.

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Republicans Bob Corker (TN), James Risch (ID), Marco Rubio (FL), Ron Johnson (WI), Jeff Flake (AZ), and Rand Paul (KY) for opposing U.S. ratification of the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities.

July 18, 2014

Get involved in NEA’s campaign to end toxic testing

On Wednesday, nearly 6,000 educators joined a special tele-town hall moderated by NEA President Dennis Van Roekel featuring Reps. Chris Gibson (R-NY) and Kyrsten Sinema (D-AZ), sponsors of the Student Testing Improvement and Accountability Act (H.R. 4172), which would reduce the number of federally-mandated tests from 14 to 6. The call was part of NEA’s campaign to end toxic testing, launched at the Regional Assembly in Denver earlier this month.

The federal government must uphold its responsibility to ensure equal educational opportunity for all. Fewer federally-mandated tests would free up time for instruction, enabling educators to give greater attention to the students most in need. Share your story about high-stakes testing and sign our open letter, Take back our schools!

TAKE ACTION TODAY! Tell Congress to reduce the federal role in testing

Americans deserve degrees, not debt

The House is scheduled to vote next week on three bipartisan, NEA-supported bills that are components of the Higher Education Act (HEA), which was first passed in 1965 to ensure access to higher education for every individual, regardless of income. NEA would prefer a comprehensive rather than a piecemeal approach to HEA reauthorization—the leading edge of NEA’s Degrees Not Debt campaign—and is urging Congress to focus on affordability, access, quality, and accountability in higher education.

Schedule back-home visits with members of Congress

In just two weeks, Congress will recess for a month and members will head back home—a great opportunity for you to meet and discuss the issues that matter most to educators like over-testing students, college affordability and early childhood education, to name a few. Start thinking about scheduling back-home lobbying meetings NOW and look for more information in the Education Insider later this month.

Cheers and Jeers

Cheers to:

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Reps. Chris Gibson (R-NY) and Kyrsten Sinema (D-AZ) for participating in NEA’s special tele-town hall on reducing the federal role in testing.

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House Democratic leadership for its 100-Day Action Plan to help the middle class: making college more affordable, raising the federal minimum wage; expanding access to early childhood education; providing tax incentives for companies to base their manufacturing operations in the United States; increased infrastructure spending; and the CEO/Employee Pay Fairness Act, which would require companies to hike employee pay or forfeit the tax deduction for executive pay over $1 million.

July 11, 2014

Educators’ activism gets results—FCC retools misguided E-Rate proposal

Thanks to the hundreds of RA delegates and educators across the country who voiced concerns, especially the potential impact on rural schools and libraries, the Federal Communications Commission voted on Friday to alter its approach to “modernizing” the E-Rate program. “Today’s vote by the Federal Communication Commission to preserve the ongoing Internet connectivity in America’s schools and libraries is a win for students,” said NEA President Dennis Van Roekel. “We applaud the Chairman and the Commission for listening to the concerns of educators in devising a final proposal that will connect all students to the Internet, including those in rural and high-poverty urban areas.”

In addition, as NEA and other education groups urged, the FCC will again look into raising the funding cap for the E-Rate program—sorely needed as the demand for services continues to outpace available funds.

House passes WIA by huge margin, President expected to sign into law

By a vote of 415-6, the House, on Wednesday, passed the bipartisan NEA-supported Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act (WIOA) (S. 803), the long overdue reauthorization of the Workforce Investment Act that will help ensure that young people are prepared to enter the workforce and that adult workers have the skills they need to succeed in today’s economy. The bill enhances work-based learning opportunities for young people; provides more services for low-income, low-skill workers; and increases the focus on successful transitions for adult basic education students.

Constitutional amendment to allow Congress to regulate campaign financing approved by Senate Judiciary Committee

An amendment to the U.S. Constitution that would, in effect, rectify the U.S. Supreme Court’s decisions in Citizens United v. FEC and McCutcheon v. FEC passed out of the Senate Judiciary Committee on Thursday. The NEA-supported S. J. Res. 19 would expressly grant Congress the authority to regulate and limit the amount of money raised for—and spent on—federal political campaigns, and allow states to regulate campaign spending at their level.

Cheers and Jeers

Cheers to:

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Sen. John Thune (R-SD), Sen. Jay Rockefeller (D-WV), Sen. Carl Levin (D-MI), Sen. Debbie Stabenow (D-MI), Sen. Mark Begich (D-AK), Rep. Ed Markey (D-MA), and Rep. Bob Goodlatte (R-VA) for sending letters to FCC Chairman Tom Wheeler raising the same concerns as NEA about misguided proposals to “modernize” the E-Rate program.

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Sens. Jeanne Shaheen (D-NH), Barbara Boxer (D-CA), Patty Murray (D-WA), and Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY) for introducing legislation to expand the child care tax credit to help make child care affordable for working families.

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House Education and the Workforce Committee members Marcia Fudge, the Ohio Democrat who also chairs the Congressional Black Caucus; Mark Takano (D-CA); and Mark Pocan (D-WI) for leading and circulating a “Dear Colleague” letter on the shortcomings of the California Superior Court’s ruling in Vergara v. California.

Jeers to:

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Reps. Justin Amash (R-MI), Paul Broun (R-GA), Jimmy Duncan (R-TN), Walter Jones (R-NC), Thomas Massie (R-KY), and Steve Stockman (R-TX) for voting NO on passage of the Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act.