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Education Insider December 2015

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December 18, 2015
December 11, 2015
December 4, 2015

December 18, 2015

Students most in need to get nearly $2 billion more in 2016

Teacher and Student The NEA-supported Consolidated Appropriations Act of 2016 or omnibus, passed by Congress this week, increases funding for key programs serving students and families most in need by nearly $2 billion ($500 million for Title I, $415 million for IDEA, $570 million for Head Start, $326 million for Child Care and Development Block Grants, and more). In addition, the bill restores funding for preschool development grants and Title II teacher quality grants used to provide professional development and reduce class sizes. The new Pell grant maximum is $5,915 (an increase of $140).

And, in a huge victory for educators, the bill also delays for two years (until 2020) the Affordable Care Act’s 40 percent tax on the cost of employer-sponsored healthcare coverage above certain amounts—generally, $10,200 for individuals and $27,500 for families. Passage of the omnibus bill with funding increases and the excise tax delay (and ultimately the tax wins mentioned below) was a result of year-long advocacy by NEA members.

Educator tax deduction made permanent, indexed to inflation

tax deduction The annual $250 educator tax deduction is now permanent, will be adjusted for inflation, and can be used for professional development as well as instructional materials and classroom supplies, thanks to the NEA-supported Protecting Americans from Tax Hikes Act of 2015, also passed by Congress this week (and later combined with the omnibus). The same bill renewed the Qualified Zone Academy Bond (QZAB) program, which helps finance school renovations and repairs—recognition that too many of today’s students are housed in yesterday’s buildings with out-of-date technology and often unsafe, crumbling infrastructures.

Cheers to our cyber-lobbyists and their victories in 2015!

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This year alone, our cyber-lobbyists ramped up their advocacy in unprecedented ways, sending nearly 400,000 messages to Congress on key issues! This compares to 143,000 messages sent in 2014. The most messages were sent on ESEA, Funding and Social Security/GPO-WEP. Each of those messages played a critical role in this year’s significant victories:

  • Enacted the Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA), the reauthorization of ESEA that ends the era of No Child Left Behind after nearly 14 years and furthers all three of NEA’s core goals:
    • Creating an opportunity “dashboard” to help ensure equity and opportunity for all students
    • Reducing the amount of standardized testing and decoupling test scores and high-stakes decision making
    • Ensuring that educators’ voices are part of decision-making at the federal, state, and local levels; including the expansion of collective bargaining
    • Additional ESSA wins included greater access to early childhood education, the inclusion of full service community schools, addressing the school-to-prison pipeline and school-based mental health, and preventing Title I portability that would dilute that critical program.
  • Enacted the Bipartisan Budget Act of 2015, which partially replaced pending sequester funding cuts for this year and next, paving the way for targeted increases to domestic programs; the agreement also ensured that the funding relief be divided equally between Non-Defense and Defense programs.
  • Increased funding for key programs serving the students most in need by nearly $2 billion ($500 million for Title I, $415 million for IDEA, $570 million for Head Start, $326 million for Child Care and Development Block Grants, and more).
  • Long-fought for improvements to the $250 educator tax deduction—it is now permanent, will be adjusted for inflation, and can be used for professional development as well as instructional materials and classroom supplies
  • Renewed the Qualified Zone Academy Bond (QZAB) program, which helps finance school renovations and repairs
  • Delayed for two years (until 2020) the Affordable Care Act’s 40 percent excise tax on the cost of employer-sponsored healthcare coverage above certain amounts—generally, $10,200 for individuals and $27,500 for families
  • Secured an important improvement to the ACA that will keep more affordable and quality healthcare coverage available to educators in hundreds of small school districts, by amending the designation category for employers of 51-100 people. Absent the change, school district health plans with 51-100 employees participating in consortia would be forced out of affordable and high quality health plans and into the more expensive small group market.
  • Prevented a potential 50 percent increase in Medicare Part B costs for educators whose Social Security benefits are already unfairly reduced or eliminated by GPO / WEP
  • Secured a two-year renewal of the Secure Rural Schools and Community Self-Determination Act, which provides critical funding for more than 4,400 schools in 770 rural counties near national forests
  • Preserved Healthy Hunger-Free Kids Act guidelines for school meals, which govern federal breakfast and lunch programs that together serve 40 million students

December 11, 2015

VICTORY! Every Student Succeeds Act signed into law December 10

essa bill signing

Thanks to educators’ unprecedented, year-long advocacy on behalf of their students, the era of No Child Left Behind is finally ending. President Obama signed the Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA) into law on Thursday, the day after the Senate overwhelming passed the bill by a vote of 85-12. ESSA furthers all three of NEA’s core goals:

  • Creating an opportunity “dashboard” to help ensure equity and opportunity for all students
  • Reducing the amount of standardized testing and decoupling test scores and high-stakes decision making
  • Ensuring that educators’ voices are part of decision-making at the federal, state, and local levels

“This new law is a well-deserved victory for our nation because the Every Student Succeeds Act will create greater opportunity for every student regardless of ZIP Code,” said NEA President Lily Eskelsen García. She attended the White House ceremony where ESSA was signed into law with Mary Jo Bremner, a teacher at Browning High School on the Blackfeet Indian Reservation in Montana; Sabrina Peacock, a third grade math teacher in Guilford County, North Carolina.

Tell Congress to invest in the students most in need

Congress passed another short-term funding measure this week, pushing back the date when current funding expires by five days, to December 16, to allow more time to negotiate an “omnibus” funding bill for the remainder of FY2016. Keep the pressure on: Tell your elected representatives that studentstake action have been shortchanged for years and it’s got to stop! Click on the “take action” button and urge Congress to avoid yet another short-term funding measure, include the Labor-HHS-Education Appropriations bill in the omnibus, and invest more heavily in programs for the students most in need—like Title I, IDEA, and early childhood education.

Negotiations over "tax extenders" package continue

As Congress heads into what is expected to be its final week of work in take action 2015, Congressional leaders are also struggling to reach agreement onlegislation to continue a number of tax breaks. The bill could include three NEA-supported priorities: an enhanced educator tax deduction, schoolconstruction bonds, and potentially delay the 40 percent excise tax on employer-provided healthcare coverage. Click on the “take action” button and urge Congress to fully repeal the excise tax. Stay tuned for more news in upcoming issues of the Education Insider.

Cheers and Jeers

 

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President Barack Obama for swiftly signing the new ESEA into law following Senate passage this week

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Senators Lamar Alexander (R-TN), Sen. Patty Murray (D-WA), Representative John Kline (R-MN), and Representative Bobby Scott (D-VA), the respective leaders of the Senate and House education committees, for their leadership and bipartisan work to pass a new ESEA this year.

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Senators Tammy Baldwin (D-WI), Tom Carper (D-DE), Claire McCaskill (D-MO), and Gary Peters (D-MI) for filing several amendments to a bill to renew the Washington, DC private school voucher program— requiring private schools to fulfill civil rights and special education requirements, among other protections —that contributed to the decision to cancel a scheduled “markup” of the bill.

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The Federal Communications Commission on the one-year anniversary of its historic vote to modernize the E-Rate program, including a critical $1.5 billion increase in the funding cap.

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12 senators who voted NO on the Every Student Succeeds Act.

December 4, 2015

House votes overwhelming for new ESEA, Senate expected to vote Tuesday!

multiple school kids

Educators spoke and Congress listened! Thanks to the unprecedented mobilization and advocacy of our members, the House overwhelmingly passed the NEA-supported Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA) by a vote of 359-64. ESSA furthers all three of NEA’s core goals:

  • Creating an opportunity “dashboard” to help ensure equity and opportunity for all students
  • Reducing the amount of standardized testing and decoupling test scores and high-stakes decision making
  • Ensuring that educators’ voices are part of decision-making at the federal, state, and local levels

For more on why educators support the bill check out these key points. The vote is “a historic step to usher in a new era in public education that will ensure every child has equal opportunity to a high-quality education, regardless of ZIP code,” said NEA President Lily Eskelsen García. “For the first time since No Child Left Behind was enacted nearly 14 years ago, take action ESSA empowers educators as trusted professionals to make school and classroom decisions while keeping the focus on the students most in need.”The Senate is expected to vote by Tuesday and the White House has indicated President Obama will swiftly sign it into law. Help bring the bill across that final finish line of one more vote by clicking on the “take action” button to urge your senator to vote yes on ESSA (S. 1177).

Urge Congress to invest in the students most in need

kid protester December 11 is less than a week away—the date when current funding expires—and Congress has yet to reach agreement on an “omnibus” funding bill for the remainder of FY2016. A short-term “continuing resolution” may be necessary to avoid another take action government shut-down. Tell your elected representatives that students have been shortchanged for years and it’s got to stop! Click on the“take action” button and urge Congress to invest more heavily in programs for the students most in need—like Title I, IDEA, and early childhood education in a final funding bill.

Tell senators to oppose school voucher program renewal

The Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee is take action expected to mark up a bill next week to extend Washington DC’s privateschool voucher program. Click on the “take action” button to urge yoursenators to vote NO on the Scholarships for Opportunity and Results (SOAR) Act (S. 2171), which funds the DC voucher program, which ignores the needs of public school students and diverts resources that should strengthen public schools.

Cheers and Jeers

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The 178 Republicans and 181 Democrats who voted “yea” on the Every Student Succeeds Act.

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Representatives John Kline (R-MN) and Bobby Scott (D-VA), respectively chairman and ranking member of the House Education and the Workforce Committee, for reaching across party lines and putting students first to rewrite ESEA and pass ESSA.

thumbsup House minority leader Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) for applauding ESSA for the role it will play in ensuring students can learn and teachers can teach.
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Representatives Suzanne Bonamici (D-OR) and Ryan Costello (R-PA) for ensuring that ESSA requires state and local audits to eliminate duplicative assessments.

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Representative Mark Takano (D-CA) for applauding ESSA for ending the federal test-and-punish mandate and recognizing the importance of educators’ voices.

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Representative Richard Hanna (R-NY) for taking to the floor to explain that he supports ESSA because it “makes key reforms to federal education policy that will maximize flexibility for states and local school districts” and “eliminates the federal Academic Yearly Progress (AYP) standards for schools …”

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Representative Erik Paulsen (R-MN) for tweeting that ESSA is “a big bipartisan win for our children. Getting a good education shouldn't come down to a zip code.”

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Representative Mark Pocan (D-WI) for his floor statement in support of ESSA: “This bill trusts and empowers teachers to ensure their voices are heard on the federal, state, and local level while increasing teacher quality and professional development, and reducing the burden of testing in schools.”

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Representatives Carlos Curbelo (R-FL) and Frederica Wilson (D-FL) for their respective statements on calling for teachers to be respected and honored.

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The 90 senators who voted for an amendment to repeal the 40 percent excise tax on employer-provided health care coverage. While the bill it amended is unlikely to become law, the vote sends a strong bipartisan signal that the excise tax needs to be repealed or delayed.

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The 52 senators who voted to repeal extensive sections of the Affordable Care Act, including the expansion of Medicaid. President Obama has indicated he will veto the bill.