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Federal Legislative Update December 2014

December 17, 2014
December 5, 2014

December 17, 2014

VICTORY! Historic E-Rate increase to help over 20 million students

In large part thanks to the sustained advocacy of NEA members, including during the Representative Assembly, the Federal Communications Commission approved a historic $1.5 billion increase in E-Rate funding that will help over 20 million students during the next five years by providing affordable telecommunications and Internet access for public schools and libraries. “All of our students, regardless of their zip code, deserve access to the digital tools and the time to learn,” said NEA President Lily Eskelsen García. “The first-ever significant increase in funding of the E-Rate program will bring broadband to the communities that need it the most—students and educators in urban, rural, and low-density populated areas.”

Congress passes major funding and tax bills that help students and educators

Before adjourning, the 113th Congress passed two significant bills—the so-called “cromnibus” and “tax extenders”—containing provisions favorable to students and educators.

The cromnibus, the NEA-supported fiscal year 2015 budget deal, funds the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) through February and the rest of the government through September. Of note, the bill provides small increases for critical formula-grant programs essential to addressing inequities and providing targeted help to those most in need of extra assistance, including students in poverty, children with disabilities, and English-language learners; a $75 million increase in the Child Care and Development Block Grant; a $100 increase in the Pell Grant maximum; small increases for minority-serving institutions of higher education, including historically black colleges and universities (HBCUs); and prevented an overall waiver that would have walked away from Healthy Hunger-Free Kids Act nutrition and school meal standards. While the bill was far from perfect, the alternative of a three-month stopgap funding measure would have been worse for education.

The tax extenders bill continues the NEA-supported $250 educator tax deduction for classroom supplies, and the Qualified Zone Academy Bond (QZAB) program for school construction and improvements.

New Congress, new look, new year

The Education Insider will unveil a new look in 2015, bringing you updates and advocacy opportunities to influence the 114th Congress.

Thank you, cyber-lobbyists, for these victories!

From Capitol Hill to the classroom, your voice AND your membership matter. NEA thanks all 656,827 of our cyber-lobbyists—and extends a special thank you to the top 50 cyber-lobbyists of 2014:

Garrick Balk, IL
Adrienne Bowden, OH
Rhonda Braylock, OH
Rebecca Brown, OH
Patricia Carlin, IL
Linda Casey, NJ
Janice Clark, KS
Charles Cook, MA
Ryan Danzinger, IL
Katherine Elliott, OH
Melissa Fleming, MA
Michael Friedman, NY
Paula Garfield, OH
Esther Garvett, FL
Kathy Goetz, PA
Annabel Gunsallus, VA
Art Hanson, MI
Chris Hunter, LA
Jonathan Kern, PA
Daniel Klipa, PA
Linda Knowlton, VA
David Koeller, WI
Cheryl Laskasky, IL
Janet Maker, CA
Don Mangus, CO

Douglas Marinos, PA
Bethany Miller, OH
Alvin Nash, CA
Wende O'Brien, MA
Patricia Orlinski, AZ
Irene Rathier, RI
Kay Reinfried, PA
Annette Ruch, NJ
Heidi Sandmeier, MN
Pat Schumacher, TX
Christopher Sego, FL
Madeline Shapiro, CA
Chasidy Simplot, WI
Julie Skelton, MI
Georgia S. Smickley, PA
Guy Stanley, TN
Elaine Tokarski, MI
Maria Isabel Van Sunder, CA
Rosemary Walker, VA
Jill Watson, ME
Carolyn Wilson, OH
Jacquelin Woods, IL
Chadwick Wright, OH
Carol Yakimik, NJ
Robert Zatezalo, OH

The 142,836 emails sent to Congress by cyber-lobbyists played a critical role in winning these victories for students and public education in 2014:

  • Obtained a historic $1.5 billion increase in E-Rate funding that will help over 20 million students over the next five years
  • Preserved and slightly increased fiscal year 2015 funding for formula-grant programs that provide targeted help to those most in need, including students in poverty, children with disabilities, and English-language learners
  • Nearly restored fiscal year 2014 funding to pre-sequester levels for core K-12 programs like Title I and IDEA, early childhood, and career preparation programs serving the students most in need
  • Reauthorized and secured a $75 million increase in funding for the Child Care and Development Block Grant (CCDBG) program, which helps make child care affordable for low-income families
  • Extended the $250 educator tax deduction for classroom supplies and the Qualified Zone Academy Bond (QZAB) program for school construction and improvements
  • Enacted the bipartisan NEA-supported Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act, the long overdue reauthorization of the Workforce Investment Act
  • Prevented an overall waiver that would have walked away from Healthy Hunger-Free Kids Act nutrition and school meal standards crucial to combating child hunger, promoting wellness, and preparing students to learn
  • Secured bipartisan support for amendments to add greater accountability and transparency to the House-passed Success and Opportunity through Quality Charter Schools Act

December 5, 2014

Key vote next week to boost E-Rate

Once again, the advocacy of NEA members is making a difference for students. Thanks to the many educators who spoke out on the pressing need to increase E-Rate funding, the Federal Communications Commission will vote December 11 on Chairman Tom Wheeler’s proposal to go from the current $2.4 billion a year to close to $4 billion a year. The need for services has tripled while E-Rate funding has been capped since the program was created in 1996.

Time running out: Tell Congress to pass a full-year funding bill that helps students

Congressional leaders and appropriators continue working on a year-end bill to fund the government after December 11, when the current short-term fix runs out. The emerging “cromnibus”—a combination of another “CR” (continuing resolution) and an “omnibus” bill—would fund the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) for a few months and the rest of the government through September 30, the end of the fiscal year. The push by Republicans to provide only a few months of funding for DHS was driven by their hopes of derailing—next year with a GOP majority in both chambers—President Obama’s executive action on immigration; questions remain whether that is possible under the appropriations process anyway. Weigh in! Tell Congress to pass a full-year funding bill that includes the Labor-HHS-Education appropriations measure and prioritizes programs like Title I and IDEA to target the students most in need, including children in poverty and students with disabilities.

TAKE ACTION TODAY! Tell Congress to pass a full-year funding bill and prioritize programs for the students most in need

Tell Congress students need good nutrition to succeed

The fight over government funding after December 11 has also revived efforts by some Republicans in the House to suspend nutrition standards for school meals set by the Healthy Hunger-Free Kids Act, using the agriculture appropriations bill as the vehicle. Already being implemented effectively in 9 out of 10 schools, the standards include more fruits and vegetables, less salt, and more whole grain-rich products—common-sense requirements that are especially important for children whose families cannot afford to serve healthy food at home on a regular basis.

TAKE ACTION TODAY! Tell Congress not to weaken nutrition standards for school meals in a year-end funding bill.

Tax assistance for students, schools, and educators advances, but Senate action awaits

The House voted overwhelmingly to renew a package of more than 50 expired tax provisions, called “tax extenders,” for another year; the Senate is expected to follow suit before adjourning. The package includes the $250 educator tax deduction for classroom supplies, the Qualified Zone Academy Bond (QZAB) program for school construction and improvements, and a higher education tax deduction for tuition and related expenses.

Cheers and Jeers

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Senator Jay Rockefeller (D-WV) for his E-Rate support over many years. “We have worked to give children a fair shot through E-Rate, a program which introduces even the most rural classrooms and smallest libraries to the world through the Internet,” he said in his farewell speech on Thursday. “Access to a foreign language class, or scientific research a world away, won’t guarantee success, but it gives every child the key to unlock their potential.”

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Republican Representatives Mike Coffman (CO), Mario Diaz-Balart (FL), Jeff Denham (CA), Illeana Ros-Lehtinen (FL), and David Valadao (CA) for voting “no” on a bill, opposed by NEA, that would prohibit President Obama’s executive action on immigration, which could bring as many as five million aspiring Americans out from the shadows.

thumbsup

Senator Bernie Sanders (I-VT) for recognizing the importance of education and the need to cut college costs in an op-ed and speech on the Senate floor. “Quality education in America, from child care to higher education, must be affordable for all,” he said.

Jeers to:

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Representative Ted Yoho (R-FL) for introducing the NEA-opposed Executive Amnesty Prevention Act of 2014 (H.R. 5759), which would prohibit U.S. presidents from taking executive action to fix our nation’s broken immigration system.

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Senator Ted Cruz (R-TX) for trying to thwart President Obama’s immigration policies. “Both Houses should use the power of the purse, which the framers understood to be the most potent tool Congress has to rein in an out-of-control executive,” he said. “We should pass a short-term continuing resolution that includes language defunding the implementation of the president’s executive action on amnesty.”