Educators score string of victories
Largely thanks to your advocacy, we made remarkable progress in the House last week. Here’s the rundown, along with steps you can take to help reach the finish line.
- By a vote of 387-19, the House passed the NEA-supported H.R. 276, which directs the Secretary of Education to establish the Recognizing Inspiring School Employees (RISE) Award Program for education support professionals. Click here to urge your senators to support the Senate version (S. 323) of the bill.
- By a vote of 245-182 — with every Democrat and 13 Republicans voting YES — the House passed the NEA-supported resolution to stop President Trump’s “emergency” declaration so he can divert funds appropriated for other purposes to building a wall on our southern border. Click here to urge your senators to support the resolution when it comes to the floor — by law, the vote must be held within 18 days of the date on which the House passed it.
- By a vote of 240-190, the House passed NEA-supported legislation to help prevent gun violence: the Bipartisan Background Checks Act of 2019 (H.R. 8), which requires a background check for every gun sold as well as most transfers, and the Enhanced Background Checks Act of 2019 (H.R. 1112), which extends the initial background check review period from three to 10 days. Click here to urge your senators to support companion legislation to strengthen background checks for gun purchases.
- Two more NEA-supported bills passed out of the Education and Labor Committee and are headed for the floor: the Rebuild America’s Schools Act (H.R. 865), which would help modernize schools where conditions undermine student learning, and the Paycheck Fairness Act (H.R. 7), which would help ensure equal pay for equal work.
Tell your representatives to support the Voting Rights Advancement Act
The Voting Rights Advancement Act of 2019 (H.R. 4) would once again require states and localities with recent histories of voter discrimination to seek approval from the U.S. Department of Justice before making any changes in their election laws. The measure is a direct response to the Supreme Court’s 2013 decision in Shelby v. Holder, which invalidated key provisions of the Voting Rights Act. First passed in 1965, the Voting Rights Act addressed persistent and purposeful discrimination — through literacy tests, poll taxes, intimidation, threats, and violence — that curtailed political participation for millions of American citizens. As voter suppression efforts evolve, the need for protections persists. In the 2016 elections, the first in decades without the protection of the Voting Rights Act, 33 states implemented laws that could lead to voter suppression. Click here and tell your representatives to support the Voting Rights Advancement Act.
Cheers and Jeers
Rep. Terri Sewell (D-AL) and Sen. Patrick Leahy (D-VT) introduced the Voting Rights Advancement Act of 2019 (H.R. 4/S. 561) with 207 co-sponsors in the House and 46 co-sponsors in the Senate.
Sens. Ben Cardin (D-MD), John Cornyn (R-TX), and Doug Jones (D-AL), and Rep. Steve Chabot (R-OH) introduced the Preserving Teacher Loan Forgiveness for Military Spouses Act (S. 532), which would waive the Teacher Loan Forgiveness program’s five consecutive years of service requirement for military spouses who relocate during the school year due to military orders.
Sens. Elizabeth Warren (D-MA) and Marco Rubio (R-FL) reintroduced the Protecting Job Opportunities for Borrowers (Protecting JOBs) Act (S.609), which would prevent states from suspending, revoking, or denying professional and teaching licenses to borrowers who fall behind on their federal student loan payments.
Rep. Brenda Lawrence (D-MI) introduced the Get the Lead Out of Schools Act (H.R. 852), which would require EPA to determine if separate lead contamination levels should be set for schools, identify schools at risk of water contamination, and establish a grant program to remediate the water infrastructure at such schools.
Education Secretary Betsy DeVos, Sen. Ted Cruz (R-TX), and Rep. Bradley Byrne (R-AL) unveiled details of their proposal to diminish public education funding with yet another voucher initiative on Feb. 28.