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Education Insider July 2015

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July 31, 2015
July 23, 2015
July 17, 2015
July 10, 2015  

July 31, 2015

Reach out while Congress is back home

summer recessCongress is heading for the exits for a five-week recess (until September 8)—the House has already adjourned and the Senate is likely not far behind. Reach out to your Members of Congress while take actionthey’re back home and schedule an in-person meeting to discusswhat’s happening in your schools. Continue to weigh in on ESEA, education funding, and other critical issues via the Legislative Action Center. Note: The Education Insider will also take an August recess unless key developments warrant updates.

Tell Congress to finalize ESEA so students don’t have to wait any longer


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With a new school year nearly upon us, educators should continue to pressure Congress to complete action on a new ESEA bill. Last week, 10 leading education groups, including NEA, urged Congressional leaders to build on the momentum of both chambers having passed rewrites of ESEA and proceed to conference committee as soon as possible. This week, the chairs and ranking members of the respective education committees announced their intent to do just that. They also named Representative John Kline (R-MN), the chair of the House Education and Workforce Committee to take actionbe the chair of the conference committee. We expect congressional leaders to appoint theconferees when they return from recess in September. In the meantime, education committee staff may begin negotiations over some of the law’s less contentious provisions. Click on the “take action” button and tell your senators and representative to push for final action on a new ESEA that advances opportunity for all students.

Urge Congress to make a budget deal

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NEA continues to call for a bicameral, bipartisan budget deal that ends sequester-level cuts and allows for needed investments in formula-grant programs that target the students most in need—like Title I, IDEA, and Head Start. With Congress in session only a fewtake action days in September before the new fiscal year starts, congressional leaders plan to pass a stopgap bill to fund all government agencies temporarily. Members of both parties continue to talk about the need to reach a budget agreement to avoid deep cuts to all programs. Click on the “take action” button and tell Congress to stop talking and actually sit down and reach a budget deal.

Senate action ahead on guidelines for healthy school meals

kids in cafeteriaThe Senate Agriculture Committee is marking up a child nutrition reauthorization bill on Sept 17. Child nutrition programs include take actionschool lunch and breakfast, as well as out-of-school-time feeding programs. Click on the “take action” button and tell Congress to protect the guidelines for healthy school meals, improve training for school food service professionals, and strengthen programs that help kids eat when school is out.

Cheers and Jeers

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Senators Jeff Merkley (D-OR), Tammy Baldwin (D-WI), and Cory Booker (D-NJ), and Representative David Cicilline (D-RI) for introducing the Equality Act of 2015—historic, comprehensive federal legislation to ban discrimination against LGBT Americans in a host of areas, including employment, housing, public accommodations, jury service, access to credit, and federal funding.

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Senators Lamar Alexander (R-TN) and Patty Murray (D-WA), and Representatives John Kline (R-MN) and Bobby Scott (D-VA), the respective chairs and ranking members of the Senate and House education committees for their bipartisan announcement that they are moving forward with a conference committee to negotiate a final ESEA reauthorization.

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Representative Tom Price (R-GA) for introducing an anti-union bill with a misleading name, the Employee Rights Act (H.R. 3222), and Senator Orrin Hatch (R-UT) for introducing the Senate version of the bill.

July 23, 2015

Renewal of educator tax deduction and school construction bonds advance

school suppliesThe Senate Finance Committee on July 21 approved a $95 billion “tax extenders” package that includes and improves on two NEA tax priorities: the annual $250 educator tax deduction and the Qualified Zone Academy Bond (QZAB) program. The bill extends the educator tax deduction for two years, indexes it to inflation, and expands it to include professional development expenses. The QZAB program, a mechanism that helps make renovations and repairs more affordable for school districts, would also be extended for two years and its local school district “match requirement” halved (reduced from 10 percent to 5 percent). The full Senate is likely to address tax extenders late this year.take action

Over in the House, NEA supports a bipartisan stand-alone bill that also expands the educator tax deduction and makes it permanent. Click on the “take action” button and urge your representative to support and co-sponsor the Educator Tax Relief Act of 2015 (H.R. 2950).

Tell Congress to finalize ESEA fast!

esea kids in classroomIn a letter to Senate and House leaders, NEA and 9 nine other leading education organizations urged both chambers to build on the momentum of having passed rewrites of ESEA and proceed to conference as soon as possible. “Parents, students and educators have lived with No Child Left take actionBehind for 14 years—more than a child’s entire K-12 experience,” they wrote. “What better way to begin the new school year than with the passage of a new law that preserves equity and fixes what is wrong with NCLB so that we can help deliver the high quality public education that all our children deserve and need to reach their full potential.” Click on the “take action” button and tell your senators and representatives to push for final action on ESEA.

HELP Committee continues to prepare for HEA reauthorization

HEA reauthorizationThe Senate HELP Committee’s July 21 hearing on innovation, the latest in a series in preparation for renewing the Higher Education Act, explored the potential of competency-based education (CBE) to reduce the cost of higher education. Senators from both sides of the aisle expressed concern that CBE could result in federal aidtake action going to undeserving institutions. Senate and House committees may take up the reauthorization later this year. Check out NEA’s recommendations for HEA reauthorization. Click on the “take action” button and urge Congress to reauthorize the Higher Education Act.

Cheers and Jeers

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Senators Sherrod Brown (D-OH), Michael Bennet (D-CO), and Richard Burr (R-NC) for leading the efforts to improve the educator tax deduction and QZAB school construction bonds in the “tax extenders” bill, adopted by the Senate Finance Committee this week.

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Senate Finance Chairman Orrin G. Hatch (R-UT) and Ranking Member Ron Wyden (D-OR) for including the improved educator tax deduction and QZAB programs in the tax extender bill they introduced to the Senate Finance Committee this week.

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Representatives Nita Lowey (D-NY), Chris Van Hollen (D-MD), and Barbara Lee (D-CA) for urging Republicans to come to the table and negotiate a budget deal that includes lifting the sequester caps and investing in education, especially for students most in need.

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House Rules Committee Chairman Pete Sessions (R-TX) for suggesting Republicans will attempt to make cuts to investments in order to raise the debt ceiling later this year: “This will not be a clean debt limit. That makes absolutely no sense,” he said.

July 17, 2015

VICTORY! Educators speak, senators listen, ESEA rewrite passes by huge margin

The Senate voted 81-17 on July 16 to pass the bipartisan, NEA-supported Every Child Achieves Act (S. 1177). The victory is a product of unprecedented member engagement that included 216,000 emails and 15,000 phone calls to Congress; 32,000 tweets; 26,000 petition signers; 367,000 views of GetESEAright.com; and nearly 2,000 face-to-face meetings with members of Congress and key staff by state affiliate leaders, NEA officers and board members, and lobbyists.

The bill improves upon current law significantly in many ways, including all three of the top areas where progress is needed according to our members:

  • Providing more opportunity for all students, including a “dashboard” of key indicators to identify and help close opportunity gaps;
  • Reducing the high-stakes associated with standardized tests, so students have more time to learn and teachers have more time to teach; and,
  • Empowering educators by giving them a greater voice in decision making

“Every student in America will be better off under this legislation than the generation of students wronged by ‘No Child Left Untested’,” said NEA President Lily Eskelsen Garcia. “The unmitigated failure of the test and punish culture shackled educators, and we are now one step closer to ending that woeful chapter in American education policy.”

S. 1177 returns decision-making to the people who know the names of the students they educate—a paradigm shift from No Child Left Behind that will help restore the original focus on providing opportunities for all students, especially those most in need.

While S. 1177 is moving in the right direction, it remains an imperfect bill. Further progress could be made when a conference committee, composed of members of both the Senate and the House,take action tackles the next hurdle: ironing out differences between the bills passed by the two chambers. Thecommittee is expected to convene later this year, perhaps as early as September. Both chambers must pass the final bill before President Obama can sign it into law. Click on the “take action” button and tell your senators to push for the conference committee to act quickly, finish the job and get ESEA right for all students.

Cheers and Jeers

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HELP Committee Chairman Lamar Alexander (R-TN) and Ranking Member Patty Murray (D-WA) for their leadership and commitment to passing a bipartisan rewrite of ESEA that restores the focus on opportunities for all students, especially those most in need.

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81 senators who voted YES on the final version of the S. 1177.

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Senators Mark Kirk (R-IL), Jack Reed (D-RI), Sherrod Brown (D-OH) and Tammy Baldwin (D-WI) for offering the NEA-supported “opportunity dashboard” amendment and the 46 senators who supported it.

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Senators Jon Tester (D-MT), Jeanne Shaheen (D-NH) and Angus King (I-ME), who joined Republicans in rejecting an NEA-opposed amendment to replicate the failed NCLB-era approach of over identifying schools in need of intervention, and allowing any Secretary of Education to set the percentage by which tests count in a state’s accountability plan.

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Republican Senators Kelly Ayotte (NH), Roy Blunt (MO), Shelley Moore Capito (WV), Susan Collins (ME), Deb Fischer (NE), Dean Heller (NV), Mark Kirk (IL), Lisa Murkowski (AK), and Jerry Moran (KS) for voting with Democrats to defeat one or both of the voucher amendments, offered by Sens. Lamar Alexander (R-TN) and Tim Scott (R-SC).

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Senators Chris Murphy (D-CT), Dick Durbin (D-IL), Elizabeth Warren (D-MA), Corey Booker (D-NJ), and Chris Coons (D-DE) for offering the NEA-opposed amendment to replicate the failed NCLB-era approach of over identifying schools in need of intervention, and allowing any Secretary of Education to set the percentage by which tests count in a state’s accountability plan, and the 43 senators who supported it.

July 10, 2015

Game on: Senate begins ESEA work, House passes ESEA rewrite

The day after the Senate began debating and voting on amendments to the Every Child Achieves Act (S. 1177), a process that will continue and likely conclude next week, the House passed its version of ESEA reauthorization by a vote of 218-213, an important step toward the conference committee between the chambers where the final bill will be negotiated.

The unprecedented activism of NEA members, including during the just-completed Representative Assembly in Orlando, continues to result in decisive victories. The bill before the Senate has already moved significantly in the right direction from current law and waivers—shifting decision-making to the people who know the names of the students they educate and away from the intense test-only focus of No Child Left Behind.

This week, we collectively scored more wins: By a vote of 45-52, the Senate soundly rejected an amendment to provide vouchers for private schools. The next day, by a vote of 44-54 it rejected an amendment to block grant all federal funds that would have opened the door to vouchers.

Meanwhile, the House by a vote of 251-178 passed an NEA-supported amendment offered by Rep. Matt Salmon (R-AZ) that protects schools from being punished by the 95 percent participation rule when parents choose to have their children opt out of standardized tests. The House, in bipartisan fashion like the Senate, also rejected an amendment to block grant all federal funds and open the door to vouchers. While NEA opposed the overall House bill, its passage moves the process closer to a final agreement.

Tell your senator to vote YES on the ‘opportunity dashboard’

ESEAEarly next week, the Senate is expected to vote on one of NEA’s core principles for ESEA reauthorization: a fairer accountability system built around an “opportunity dashboard” composed of indicators of school quality and student success, such as graduation rates, as well as state-determined indicators of students’ access to resources and supports like advanced coursework, fully qualified teachers, specialized instructional personnel, libraries, modern instructional materials and facilities, health and wellness programs, high-quality early education programs, and arts and athletic programs.

While the Senate bill already takes steps in that direction, the bipartisan amendment to be offered next week would further ensure that states and districts identify, and begin closing, opportunity and resource gaps so that all students have access to a well-rounded education, no matter their zip code.

take actionThe amendment—by Senators Mark Kirk (R-IL), Jack Reed (D-RI), Tammy Baldwin (D-WI), and Sherrod Brown (D-OH)—would require data on indicators of school quality and student success to be reported; disaggregated by student subgroup; and used to remedy quickly any gaps in students’ access to resources, supports, and programs. Click on the “take action” button and tell your senators to vote YES on the opportunity dashboard amendment next week!

Cheers and Jeers

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Republican Senators Kelly Ayotte (NH), Shelley Moore Capito (WV), Susan Collins (ME), Deb Fischer (NE), Dean Heller (NV), Mark Kirk (IL), Lisa Murkowski (AK), and Jerry Moran (KS) for voting with Democrats to defeat a voucher amendment to ESEA on Wednesday.

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Democratic Representatives Michael Capuano (MA), Steve Cohen (TN), Peter DeFazio (OR), Rosa DeLauro (CT), Keith Ellison (MN), Gwen Graham (FL), Alan Grayson (FL), Ann Kirkpatrick (AZ), Nita Lowey (NY), Michelle Lujan Grisham (NM), Ben Ray Luján (NM), Sean Maloney (NY), Betty McCollum (MN), Patrick Murphy (FL), Collin Peterson (MN), Kathleen Rice (NY), Tim Ryan (OH), Albio Sires (NJ), and Maxine Waters (CA) for crossing party lines and voting to pass an opt-out amendment to ESEA.

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The 49 Republicans in the House who joined all Democrats in rejecting an ESEA amendment to block grant federal funds and open the door to vouchers. See how your member voted.

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Senator Sherrod Brown (D-OH) for introducing the Charter School Accountability Act (S. 1708), which would restore the focus on charter schools as incubators for innovation and strengthen oversight in the critical areas of transparency, accountability, and community involvement.

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Representative Mark Takano (D-CA) for taking NEA’s message to the House floor during the debate on ESEA reauthorization: “We cannot continue to use standardized test scores to punish teachers and schools.”

for taking NEA’s message to the House floor during the debate on ESEA reauthorization: “We cannot continue to use standardized test scores to punish teachers and schools.”
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Senators Tammy Baldwin (D-WI), Cory Booker (D-NJ), and Representative Bobby Scott (D-VA) for introducing the America’s College Promise Act (S. 1716 /H.R. 2962), which would make two years of community college free and provide an affordable pathway for low-income students to a four-year college degree.

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Senators Lamar Alexander (R-TN) and Patty Murray (D-WA) for their leadership in bringing a bipartisan ESEA bill to the floor for the first time in more than 13 years. Said Alexander about S. 1177: This [bill] should produce fewer tests and more appropriate ways to measure student achievement. We believe this is the most effective path toward higher standards, better teaching and real accountability.”

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Senator Steve Daines (R-MT) and Representative Matt Walker (R-NC) for attempting to amend ESEA with the A-Plus Act, which would erode the federal role in education and open the door to vouchers. Their proposed amendments were defeated in both the Senate and the House.

and for attempting to amend ESEA with the A-Plus Act, which would erode the federal role in education and open the door to vouchers. Their proposed amendments were defeated in both the Senate and the House.
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Senator David Vitter (R-LA) for attempting to introduce an anti-immigration issue into ESEA reauthorization

for attempting to introduce an anti-immigration issue into ESEA reauthorization