For more than a century, NEA’s members have joined together with families and community leaders to advocate for our students and our public schools.
And along the way, we’ve accomplished quite a bit.
Take a look at what we can do together when we speak up for students and educators.
Electoral Count Act and Pregnant Workers Fairness Act included in Year-End Funding Bill
The 117th Congress passed a year-end funding bill that includes provisions to help educators, students and families. It includes the Electoral Count Act, which ensures that the electoral votes tallied by Congress accurately reflect the people’s vote in each state. The funding bill also includes the Pregnant Workers Fairness Act, which would create a uniform national standard for reasonable accommodations for pregnancy, childbirth, and related conditions.
Landmark Marriage Equality Legislation Becomes Law
President Joe Biden signs into law the Respect for Marriage Act, which passed Congress with bipartisan support. The legislation recognizes the marriages of same-sex and interracial couples, so long as their marriages were valid in the state where they were performed. It also preserves state and federal benefits for these marriages, should the courts open the door to legislation that would prohibit them in the future.
Inflation Reduction Act Helps Students, Families
On August 16, President Biden signed the Inflation Reduction Act into law. The Inflation Reduction Act is the most significant climate investment in U.S. history. It also makes healthcare more affordable to millions by helping them reduce prescription drug prices, capping the cost of insulin and lowering healthcare premiums and enacts a 15% minimum tax on corporations that make more than $1 billion in profits.
Student Debt Cancellation
Because of the educators and allies who took action, the White House announced a new student-debt cancellation plan, that could forgive up to $20,000 in federal student debt for borrowers. This victory came on top of the Temporary Public Service Loan Forgiveness Waiver, which delivered $24 billion in loan forgiveness for 360,000 public-service workers over the course of a year. (Need help navigating your student debt? Here's what you need to know.)
The First Gun Violence Reform in Nearly 30 Years
President Biden signed the Bipartisan Safer Communities Act (S. 2938) into law on June 25. The first significant gun safety package in almost 30 years, it will enhance background checks for gun purchasers under age 21 and broaden access to mental-health services, especially school-based programs. It will also encourage states to implement red flag laws that temporarily keep individuals at elevated risk of harming themselves or others from gaining access to guns. Earlier that month, NEA President Becky Pringle testified at a June 8 House Oversight & Reform Committee hearing. “Our country has already experienced nearly 240 mass shootings in 2022. But that number does not begin to capture the scope of this epidemic. Every day, gun violence kills 111 people. That means we can expect 22,255 more deaths by gun this year. Inaction equals acceptance of the unacceptable.”
Ketanji Brown Jackson Joins U.S. Supreme Court
Justice Ketanji Brown Jackson becomes the first Black woman and public defender confirmed to the U.S. Supreme Court. NEA members supported her nomination because of her impeccable credentials and so that our justice system reflects the very best of all Americans.
Violence Against Women Act Violence Against Women Reauthorized
The Violence Against Women Reauthorization Act (H.R. 1620) maintains protections for victims, makes vital investments in preventing sexual assaults, protects victims of domestic violence from intimate partner homicide, and increases victims’ access to safe housing and economic stability. In addition, it strengthens VAWA by closing the “boyfriend loophole” and barring people convicted of abusing, stalking or assaulting a dating partner from purchasing or owning a firearm; this provision would also apply to people under a court-issued restraining order.
Testimony in Congress
NEA helps educators lift their voices and lend their expertise in the halls of power.
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Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act into law
The legislation represents a historic investment in roads and bridges, along with broadband funding. Importantly, it extends the Secure Rural Schools Act, works to eliminate lead pipes in schools and childcare facilities, and invests in electrifying school buses to reduce emissions.
NEA members win student debt cancellation for hundreds of thousands of public service workers
After hearing from thousands of NEA members across the country, the Department of Education announces much needed reforms to the Public Service Loan Forgiveness (PSLF) program. The changes include a temporary waiver that will provide imminent relief for tens of thousands of public service workers, like educators, and eventual relief for hundreds of thousands of borrowers. Previously, the broken PSLF program denied 98 percent of the applications filed and forgave just 16,100 borrowers.
NEA helps pass COVID-19 Hate Crimes Act
NEA members rally to protect Asian Pacific Islanders from hate crimes and discrimination spurred by the pandemic. The law strengthens federal efforts to address these crimes in multiple ways.
Biden’s American Rescue Plan prioritizes public schools
ARP is the single largest investment in public education in U.S. history. It includes all three of NEA’s top priorities: President Joe Biden invested $170 billion in dedicated education funding for K-12 schools and higher education; $350 billion in state and local aid to help avoid further layoffs of educators and other essential public servants; and $7.2 million in emergency funding for the Federal Communications Commission’s E-Rate program to equip students to do schoolwork at home.
Health care benefits protected
NEA urges the Supreme Court to uphold the Affordable Care Act and safeguard the health and safety of students and families; the Court agrees.
Education Support Professionals honored federally after a decade of lobbying
The Recognizing Achievement in Classified School Employees Act passes with bipartisan support and establishes the Recognizing Inspiring School Employees (RISE) Award for excellence in providing services to pre-K to grade 12 students and schools.
Affordable Care Act’s 40 percent tax on “high cost” health plans repealed
Scheduled to take effect in 2022, this tax burden would have been borne by the 180 million Americans with employer-sponsored health coverage—including many educators—in the form of benefit reductions, higher deductibles, or both.
#RedForEd movement shows educator power
The national #RedForEd movement begins in West Virginia, with educators striking in response to low salaries and rising healthcare costs. Educators in California, North Carolina, Arizona, Colorado, Oklahoma, Kentucky, and other states joined in the following two years.
Educators cheer for passage of The Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA)
Educator activism and lobbying leads to the replacement of No Child Left Behind. The Every Student Succeeds Act meets all three of NEA’s core goals: It creates an “opportunity dashboard” to help ensure equity and opportunity for all students, reduces standardized testing and decouples it from high-stakes decisions, and empowers educators by giving them a voice in federal, state, and local decision-making.
Educator tax deduction made permanent
In recognition of the money that educators spend from their own pockets to equip classrooms, a $250 educator tax deduction is made permanent and indexed to inflation.
Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) protects thousands of educators
On June 15, the Secretary of Homeland Security announces that people who were brought to the United States as children and meet several guidelines may request consideration of deferred action for two years, subject to renewal. They are also eligible for work authorization, and many become educators!
$10 billion Education Jobs Fund created by Congress
After the Great Recession of 2008, this fund saved the jobs of an estimated 138,000 educators coast to coast.
IDEA amends law to protect the rights of students
The Individuals with Disabilities Education Act promises to make a “free appropriate public education” available to children and young people with disabilities and to provide special education and related services.
Department of Education elevated to Cabinet
Following years of intense lobbying efforts by NEA, the United States Department of Education is elevated to full cabinet status, helping to provide and regulate education nationally.
Education for All Handicapped Children Act becomes law
With the activism of NEA members, President Gerald Ford signs the civil rights measure into law, guaranteeing access to education for every child.
The U.S. Supreme Court defends rights of working women
NEA wins a Supreme Court case striking down mandatory maternity leave for pregnant teachers.
NEA forms the NEA Fund for Children and Public Education
The political action committee allows NEA to influence the national legislative agenda, shape electoral platforms, and lend support to candidates with positions favorable to public education, regardless of party. Funded by member contributions, it becomes one of the nation’s largest and most influential PACs.
Aspiring educators helped lower the voting age to 18
Student Educators launch Project 18, a national campaign to change the voting age to 18. Activists work to pass the 26th Amendment, which allows millions of young people to participate in the democratic process and to have a powerful voice in shaping their political future.
Celebrating the Passage of the 26th Amendment
NEA members elect first Hispanic president, advocate for local funding
Braulio Alonso becomes NEA’s first Latino president. NEA begins a drive for multicultural instruction and improved the representation of people of color in textbooks.
Title I regulations support students
Title I of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act seeks to level the playing field for the most vulnerable students, including poor children, students with disabilities, and English-language learners. The same year, an NEA-produced film, “Children Without,” is nominated for an Academy Award.
President Lyndon Johnson signs ESEA
Johnson is named an NEA Honorary Life Member for signing the Elementary and Secondary Education Act, the cornerstone of the federal presence in K-12 education. The law represents a commitment to equal access to education for students regardless of ZIP Code.
NEA and American Teachers Association join to recruit and retain educators of color
Following Brown v. Board of Education decision, NEA establishes a $1 million fund—more than $10 million in today’s dollars—to “protect and promote the professional, civil, and human rights of educators,” and worked with ATA to support educators of color and retain them in the profession.
NEA and ATA Join Forces
NEA helps eliminate race-based salary schedules
NEA and ATA provides data to the Supreme Court in a case that found dual-salary schedules based on race unconstitutional.
President Truman sign the National School Lunch Act into law
The lives of students from lower-income families are improved once Congress began providing grants to states to ensure that all schools could provide lunch.
Educators win rights to political activism
The Hatch Act previously banned all public employees from political activity, but the amendment allows teachers and NEA to participate in public affairs.
NEA members secure first collective bargaining agreement
NEA members in Norwalk, Conn. go on strike and secured the first-ever collective bargaining agreement for educators.
NEA protects educator activism at the ballot
Kate Frank, a local teacher activist in Muskogee, Okla., is terminated for supporting a school board candidate. After NEA wins her case, she is reinstated and the Association initiates the Kate Frank/DuShane Fund to defend other wrongfully terminated educators.
School construction is included in Works Progress Administration
Because of educator advocacy, hundreds of school buildings are constructed with federal funding.
NEA supports accreditation for schools serving Black students
In the 1920s, the Southern Association of Schools and Colleges (SASC) did not accredit schools for Black students, severely limiting their access to higher education. NEA joines with the American Teachers Association to pressure SASC to change. The Joint Committee for Justice was the first of several successful NEA-American Teachers Association partnerships.
NEA members create the first pension for educators
NEA member advocacy leads all states to create laws to provide funds for transporting children to school. That same year, NEA members in New Jersey creat the first pension for school employees.
NEA votes to support the fight for Women’s Suffrage
Almost a decade before women are granted the right to vote, women educators are able to join NEA, vote in NEA elections, and run for office. Ella Flagg Young is elected the first woman president of NEA in 1910.
NEA’s National Convention is Dedicated to Ending Child Labor
Educators lead the national conversation to end child labor, later supported and chartered by an act of Congress.
NEA champions Retirement
NEA passes a resolution insisting on retirement plans for education employees in all states.
NEA Denounces Slavery
At the summer convention, J.P. Wilkersham, president of the National Teachers Association (NEA’s forerunner), denounces slavery and recommends that no seceded states be readmitted to the Union until they agree to provide a free public school system for Black as well as white children.
NEA is founded as the National Teachers Association
One hundred educators (from 10 state associations) meet with the mission “to elevate the character and advance the interest of the profession of teaching, and to promote the cause of popular education in the United States.”
OUR VOICE = POWER Speak Up for Public Schools
When we unite and speak truth to power, we can have an enormous impact. Stay up to date on the latest actions you can take to protect and improve public schools for all students.