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Letter to the Senate on amendments to "The Every Child Achieves Act of 2015” (S. 1177)

July 10, 2015

Dear Senator: 

On behalf of the three million members of the National Education Association and the students they serve, and as a follow-up to our letter on the underlying bill, the Every Child Achieves Act of 2015 (S. 1177), we wish to share our views on selected amendments expected to be voted on next week. Votes associated with these issues may be included in the NEA Legislative Report Card for the 114th Congress.

NEA strongly supports and urges you to vote YES on: 

  • Amendment 2093, the Student Non-Discrimination Act (SNDA), by Senator Franken (D-MN). This amendment would help protect students from school-based sexual orientation and gender identity discrimination—much as Title IX does with gender discrimination, and other areas of the law do with various protected classes. SNDA recognizes bullying and harassment as discrimination, and provides both for remedies against discrimination and incentives for schools to prevent it from happening in the first place. More than 60 percent of educators witness bullying twice or more in a month and more than 40 percent witness it weekly or more often (Source: Nationwide Study of Bullying: Teachers’ and Education Support Professionals’ Perspectives, National Education Association, 2011).
  • Amendment 2152, the Strong Start for America’s Children Act, by Senator Casey (D-PA). This amendment 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. Children who attend high-quality prekindergarten programs are less likely to drop out of school, repeat grades, need special education, or get in trouble with the law later on (Source: Lifetime Effects: The HighScope Perry Preschool Study Through Age 40, 2005). As a result, programs can pay for themselves in as little as one year and carry eventual benefit-to-cost ratios as high as 8-to-1 (Source: Economic Policy Institute, 2012). We would like to see the legislation strengthened to ensure that prekindergarten is delivered within the public education system, wherever available.

In addition, we urge the following actions on these other pending amendments: 

  • Vote Yes on Amendment 2080 by Senator Hatch (R-UT) which establishes a committee comprised of stakeholders to study and make recommendations addressing issues of student privacy and parental rights and how to improve and enforce related federal laws.  
  • Vote Yes on Amendment 2118 by Senator Kaine (D-VA) to amend state accountability plans to ensure students are postsecondary and  workforce ready
  • Vote Yes on Amendment 2095 by Senator Peters (D-MI) to include financial literacy programming as an allowable use for Title I Parent and Family Engagement funding.
  • Vote Yes on Amendment 2120 by Senator Warren (D-MA) to amend state report card requirements to allow for cross-tabulation of student data.  

NEA strongly opposes and urges you to vote NO on: 

  • Amendment 2132, Title I Private School Vouchers, by Senators Scott (R-SC). Vouchers divert essential resources from public schools to private schools while offering no real “choice” for the overwhelming majority of students. Moreover, there is no valid evidence that vouchers improve the performance of either the students receiving them or those left behind in public schools. Private schools are neither required to ensure that federal funds are handled properly nor held to the same standards of transparency and accountability as public schools. Vouchers do not create choice for parents, but rather choice for private schools—they can reject students based on economic status, academic achievement, disabilities, or even gender. 

We thank you for your consideration of our views on these amendments, and look forward to continuing to work with all senators to pass the strongest possible bill that provides all students with a quality, well-rounded education no matter their zip code. 

Sincerely,

Mary Kusler
Director of Government Relations