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Education Insider January 2015

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January 30, 2015
January 23, 2015
January 16, 2015
January 9, 2015

January 30, 2015

ESEA is moving! Tell Congress ESEA reauthorization must provide more opportunity for students to learntakeaction

Join NEA in urging Congress to focus on three core goals for reauthorization:

  • Creating a new generation accountability system that includes  an “opportunity dashboard”
  • Giving students more time to learn by reducing the number of federally-mandated tests
  • Ensuring qualified educators and empowering them to lead

Teacher testifies on ESEA before Senate HELP Committee

NEA member Rachelle Moore, a National BoardCertified teacher and mentor in the Seattle Teacher Residency program—unique in that it is driven by teacher voices—testified at the Senate HELP Committee’s hearing on ESEA this week. She stressed the need “to ensure all students have equal educational opportunities” and “provide the resources necessary to support and retain teachers, such as investing in residency models and mentoring programs.” The HELP Committee will hold a roundtable on Tuesday, Feb. 3, on innovation, its third hearing on ESEA since the start of the new Congress. An ESEA reauthorization bill could be marked up in late February or early March.

ESEA moving quickly in the House

The Republican majority on the House Education and the Workforce Committee is planning to release its ESEA reauthorization bill next week, with a markup the week of Feb. 9. The bill is expected to be similar to H.R. 5, the NEA-opposed bill passed by the House during the 113th Congress. The plan is to bring it to the floor by the last week of February, before the full Senate takes up ESEA reauthorization.

Tell Congress to reduce the federal role in testingtakeaction

Urge your representative to support and co-sponsor the bipartisan, NEA-supported Student Testing Improvement and Accountability Act (H.R. 452). The bill would reduce the number of federally-mandated tests from 14 to 6 to give teachers more one-on-one time with students, especially those most in need of extra time and help.

President Obama to call for $2.7 billion increase in education funding on Monday

The fiscal year 2016 budget President Obama sends to Congress next week is expected to call for a $2.7 billion increase in education funding, including a $1 billion increase for Title I. It will also call for fully replacing sequester-level cuts. Stay tuned for more in next week’s Education Insider. 

Cheers & Jeers

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Senator Patty Murray (D-WA) for saying test scores should not be the sole factor in teacher evaluation at the HELP Committee hearing. “There is just so much more going into teaching than test scores,” she said.

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Senators Michael Bennet (D-CO) and Sheldon Whitehouse (D-RI) for stressing how important it is to listen to teachers during the ESEA reauthorization process, reinforcing the testimony of teacher Rachelle Moore, an NEA member, at the HELP Committee hearing. 

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Representatives Eric Swalwell (D-CA), Joe Courtney (D-CT), David McKinley (R-WV), and Lee Zeldin (R-NY) for signing on as co-sponsors of  the Student Testing Improvement and Accountability Act (H.R. 452).

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Representatives Jared Huffman (D-CA), Chris Van Hollen (D-MD), David McKinley (R-WV), Tim Walz (D-MN), Chris Gibson (R-NY), and Dave Reichert (R-WA) for reintroducing the NEA-supported, bipartisan bill to provide full funding for the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA).

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Senator Jeff Sessions (R-AL) for opposing President Obama’s call to replace sequester cuts to non-defense discretionary programs: “I steadfastly oppose the idea that for every dollar spent on defense, it has to be matched by a new extra dollar spent on non-defense,” he said.

January 23, 2015

Tell Congress ESEA reauthorization must provide more opportunity for students to learn

The Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions (HELP) Committeefocused on the takeactioncritically important issue of assessment and accountability in its first education hearing of the 114th Congress, held Jan. 21. NEA is urging the Committee to focus on three core goals for reauthorization:

  • Creating a new generation accountability system that includes an “opportunity dashboard”
  • Giving students more time to learn by reducing the number of federally-mandated tests
  • Ensuring qualified educators and empowering them to lead

February will be heavy with ESEA action. The HELP Committee will hold a second hearing next Tuesday on teachers and school leaders, with a third ESEA hearing planned for the first week in February. We expect the committee to mark up an ESEA bill before the end of February with floor debate and votes following in March. The House is expected to bring ESEA to its committee in February and be on the floor before the end of February.

Tell Congress to reduce the federal role in testingtakeaction

The same day the Senate was debating testing, Reps. Chris Gibson (R-NY)and Kyrsten Sinema (D-AZ) reintroduced the bipartisan Student Testing Improvement and Accountability Act (H.R. 452) to give teachers more one-on-one time with students, especially those most in need of extra time and help. NEA strongly supports the bill, which would lower the number of federally-mandated tests in reading and math from 14 to 6. “Reducing the number of federally-mandated tests by more than half would free up time and resources, diminish ‘teaching to the test,’ and allow educators to focus on what is most important: instilling a love of learning in their students,” said NEA President Lily Eskelsen García.

Redefining “full-time” would hurt students, families, educators

In conjunction with the HELP Committee’s Jan. 22 hearing, “Examining Job-Based Health Insurance and Defining Full-Time Work,” NEA urged senators to VOTE NO on the Forty Hours Is Full Time Act of 2015 (S. 30) because it would lead to a greater disincentive for employers to provide health-care coverage. By doing so, the bill would adversely affect employer-sponsored health insurance and harm families, children, and educators in need of health-care coverage.

President Obama shines spotlight on education

obamaPresident Barack Obama used his Jan. 20 State of the Union address to lay out a forward-looking agenda that focuses on American families, students, and workers. NEA President Lily Eskelsen García applauded Obama’s “common sense” proposals for more opportunities and his emphasis on education. “We are encouraged that the president again chose to shine a spotlight on education,” she said. “We agree with him that education is an economic priority, and elevating the issue before Congress is an explicit acknowledgement that the road to the middle class runs directly through our nation’s schools regardless of the zip code in which students live.”

Cheers & Jeers

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Representatives Chris Gibson (R-NY) and Kyrsten Sinema (D-AZ) for reintroducing the NEA-supported Student Testing Improvement and Accountability Act, and the 15 original co-sponsors of the bill: Reps. David Joyce (R-OH), Patrick Meehan (R-PA), Grace Napolitano (D-CA), Albio Sires (D-NJ), Matt Cartwright (D-PA), Peter DeFazio (D-OR), Fred Upton (R-MI), Dina Titus (D-NV), David Valadao (R-CA), Richard Nolan (D-MN), John Katko (R-NY), Mark Takano (D-CA), Glenn Thompson (R-PA), Tom Reed (R-NY), and Mike Simpson (R-ID).

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Senator Sheldon Whitehouse (D-RI) for this observation at the HELP Committee’s hearing on testing and accountability: “There are two worlds. [One is] contractors, consultants, academics and experts and plenty of officials at the federal and state level. And the other world is of principals and teachers who are actually providing education to students. And what I’m hearing from the second world is that the footprint of the first world has become way too big in their lives.”

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Representatives Suzanne Bonamici (D-OR) and Ryan Costello (R-PA) and Sens. Tammy Baldwin (D-WI) and Sherrod Brown (D-OH) for introducing the NEA-supported SMART Act (H.R. 408/S. 197) to help identify and eliminate low-quality and redundant tests.

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Senator Patty Murray at the HELP Committee’s hearing on job-based health insurance for noting that changing the definition of “full-time employee” to 40 hours per week would cause hundreds of thousands of workers to lose access to coverage.

January 16, 2015

Senate begins ESEA Reauthorization work

A serious effort to reauthorize ESEA is fully underway in the 114th Congress. The Senate is poised to act first, and Senate HELP Committee Chairman Lamar Alexander (R-TN) and Ranking Member Patty Murray (D-WA) have both delivered remarks noting the need to fix the broken No Child Left Behind law and outlining their broad principles for reauthorization. Chairman Alexander released this week a “discussion” draft – NEA is reviewing. The HELP Committee has scheduled its first hearing for January 21st, which will cover testing, with further hearings expected in the following weeks. We expect the HELP Committee to markup an ESEA bill in early February with floor debate and votes to follow by the end of February. The House will also be moving quickly on ESEA reauthorization with votes expected by the end of March.

NEA President Lily Eskelsen Garcia welcomed the start of work on reauthorizing ESEA, “We are looking forward to working with Republicans, Democrats, the civil rights community, educators and other partners in ensuring that all students have equal educational opportunity—the original focus of ESEA. Our focus is on providing equal opportunity to every child so that they may be prepared for college and career. A child’s chances for success should not depend on living in the right zip code”

NEA believes that reauthorization of ESEA is an opportunity to set a new vision of shared responsibility for a public education system that promotes opportunity, equity, and excellence for all students. In order to achieve these goals, Congress must focus on the following priorities:

• Creating a new generation accountability system that advances opportunity and excellence for all students by developing an “opportunity dashboard” of quality school indicators to support learning and expose opportunity gaps;
• ensuring more time for students to learn and teachers to teach, by reducing the number of federally-mandated tests and restoring “grade-span” testing – once in elementary, once in middle, and once in high school; and
• ensuring qualified educators for students and empower them to lead.

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Tell Congress to get ESEA Reauthorization right

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Tell Congress to reduce the federal role in testing

House Republicans vote to undo Immigration order

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The House passed a Department of Homeland Security Appropriations bill by a vote of 236-191 this week. Two NEA opposed amendments, one aimed at halting President Obama’s executive action on immigration and another which would essentially end the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program, were attached to the DHS bill, and would have devastating impacts on our students, their families and.

Fixing our broken immigration system is a top priority for educators because it has a profound impact on our students and their families. President Obama’s recent announcement of executive action on immigration has the potential to bring five million aspiring Americans out from the shadows, many of whom were brought into the country through no fault of their own as children, and including the parents of children who are U.S. citizens. NEA strongly supports this executive action. The overall package is highly unlikely to get the 60 votes needed to advance in the Senate, and President Obama has threatened to veto the changes to the president’s immigration action.

Cheers & Jeers

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Senator Sheldon Whitehouse (D_RI) for his continued work as a champion of tax fairness. Senator Whitehouse introduced a package of bills aimed at implementing the ‘Buffet Rule’, ending tax giveaways for sending jobs offshore, and closing loopholes that allow corporations to avoid taxes. (S. 161, S.162, and S. 172)

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Representatives Amodei (R-NV), Coffman (R-CO), Costello (R-PA), Curbelo (R-FL), Denham (R-CA), Dent (R-PA), Diaz-Balart (R-FL), Dold (R-IL), Elmers (R-NC), Gibson (R-NY), Hanna (R-NY), Heck (R-NV), Hardy (R-NV), Katko (R-NY), MacArthur (R-NJ), King (R-NY), Kinzinger (R-IL), LoBiondo (R-NJ), McSally (R-AZ), Meehan (R-PA), Nunes (R-CA), Reichert (R-WA), Ros-Lehtinen (R-FL), Smith (R-NJ), Upton (R-MI), and Valadao (R-CA) for crossing party lines and voting against Rep. Blackburn’s (R-TN) amendment to the DHS funding bill that would essentially end the DACA program which has served to protect approximately 700,000 children from the fear of deportation.

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Representatives Aderholt (R-AL) and Blackburn (R-TN) for introducing anti-immigration and anti-family unity amendments to the Department of Homeland Security Appropriations bill.

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Senator Jeff Session (R-AL) for indicating in a memo to GOP congressional offices his intention to do everything in his power to ensure “a single dime” wasn’t spent toward implementing the President’s immigration order.

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House Judiciary Chair Bob Goodlatte (R-VA) for stating that Congress does not need to take action to address the Supreme Court ruling in Shelby v Holder which stripped crucial voter protection portions of the Voting Rights Act.

January 9, 2015

Welcome to the new Congress!

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The 114th Congress took office January 6. Republicans control both chambers: the Senate by a margin of 54-46 and the House by a margin of 246-188 (one seat is vacant). On January 20th, President Obama will deliver the State of the Union Address. Committee leadership in the 114th Congress will include new and familiar faces in key committees impacting education:

  • Senator Lamar Alexander (TN) is the new chair of the Senate Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions (HELP) Committee and Senator Patty Murray (WA) is the new senior Democrat (“ranking member”)
  • Senator Thad Cochran (MS) will chair the Senate Appropriations Committee and Senator Barbara Mikulski (MD) will serve as the senior Democrat
  • Representative John Kline (MN) will remain chairman of the House Education and the Workforce Committee and Representative Bobby Scott (VA) is serving as the new senior Democrat on the Committee
  • Representative Hal Rogers (KY) will continue to chair the House Appropriations Committee and Representative Nita Lowey (NY) will remain as the senior Democrat

House passes bill endangering health care coverage

The House on Thursday passed the NEA opposed Save American Workers Act of 2015 (H.R. 30) by a vote of 252-172. The bill would create a disincentive for employers to provide health care coverage, negatively impacting employer-sponsored health insurance and harming families, children and educators who need coverage. The Senate HELP Committee is expected to markup a companion bill in two weeks, with the bill going to the floor shortly after. The White House has issued a veto threat.

Tell Congress to reduce the federal role in testing

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As the 114th Congress begins their work, it is expected that the Senate and House will move quickly with an ESEA reauthorization. A key element is the continued debate over high-stakes testing, and the voices of NEA members and parents is making an impact. We expect a new bill in the coming weeks to provide more time for one-on-one teaching and learning by reducing the number of federally-mandated tests from 14 to 6.

Fewer federally-mandated tests would free up more time for instruction, enabling educators to give greater attention to the students most in need. Share your story about the impact of high-stakes testing on students. Here’s just one example of the powerful stories that have been submitted:

I am a mother of two (a son who is 7 with mild autism, and a daughter who is 9). I am also a teacher. I really am so sad that the love of learning that children should be experiencing has been replaced by anxiety and depression. I see a majority of my high school students who are having panic attacks, depression, and sleep problems due to the pressure of the many standardized tests. My daughter who is in 3rd grade begs me not to go to school due to the testing and pressure of it all. Up until this year she was excited to go to school each day. All that has changed. She now thinks that she is not smart and has nightmares about the pressures of the many tests.—Sarah L; Lake Zurich, Illinois

House Republicans look to undo Immigration order



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House Republicans plan to move as early as next week on legislation to try to halt President Obama’s executive action on immigration which would protect millions of undocumented immigrants from deportations. That move is likely to be paired with spending for the Department of Homeland Security, which got only short-term funding from an agreement in December. Fixing our broken immigration system is a top priority for educators because it has a profound impact on our students and their families. President Obama’s recent announcement of executive action on immigration has the potential to bring five million aspiring Americans out from the shadows, many of whom were brought into the country through no fault of their own as children, and including the parents of children who are U.S. citizens. NEA strongly supports this executive action.

President Obama calls for tuition-free community college hard-working students

President Obama on Friday in Tennessee announced a new proposal to offer 2 years of tuition-free community college for students who maintain a 2.5 GPA and are pursuing a four-year degree. The proposal, which would require Congressional approval, could potentially help up to 9 million students afford college. In a statement, NEA President Lily Eskelsen Garcia applauded the Administration’s efforts to make college more affordable for more students. Adding, “Education has always been the gateway to success and far too many students are graduating with mountains of debt. At a time when post-secondary education has become even more important, students and their families are scrambling to pay for that education.”

Cheers & Jeers

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House Democratic Whip Steny Hoyer (D-MD) for his defense of the Affordable Care Act and the countless Americans who could lose their employer sponsored health benefits if the Saving American Workers Act of 2015 (H.R. 30) becomes law.

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Representative Joaquin Castro (D-Texas) for circulating a “Dear Colleague” letter, urging members to tell House Republicans to keep funding for the Department of Homeland Security free from measures that would gut President Obama’s immigration actions, which could affect more than 5 million aspiring Americans.

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House GOP leadership for pushing a “rules package” that includes dynamic scoring – a way to make it easier to pass deeper tax cuts for the wealthy.