NEA Member Testifies on Recruiting and Retaining Teachers before House Committee
Michael Brosnan, a Bridgeport, Conn. high school teacher and member of the Connecticut Education Association, told members of the House Committee on Education and Labor that recruiting and retaining educators is a huge challenge for several reasons-including the cost of higher education, low teacher pay, and insufficient support for beginning teachers. Brosnan testified during the committee’s July 17 hearing on how federal policy can provide more support for teachers and school leaders. A high school history teacher with 17 years of experience, Brosnan has spent the past two years coordinating programs for first-year teachers in Bridgeport’s public schools. Brosnan testified that “the revolving door of school administrators, violence, under-funding, poor salaries, visible lack of support, and crumbling facilities” contribute to the difficulties of recruiting and retaining teachers. It is vital, Brosnan said, to tackle these issues, provide teacher candidates with more rigorous student-teaching experiences, and strengthen federal programs, including Public Service Loan Forgiveness, that assist public-school teachers in repaying student loans. Send an email urging Congress to fix the Public Service Loan Forgiveness program (S. 1203/H.R. 2441).
Excise tax on “high cost” health plans repealed by House
The Middle Class Health Benefits Tax Repeal Act (H.R. 748), sponsored by Rep. Joe Courtney (D-CT), overwhelmingly passed the House of Representatives by a 419-6 vote on July 17, with 230 Democrats and 189 Republicans voting for the bill. The legislation, which NEA supported, would repeal the 40-percent excise tax, scheduled to take effect in 2022, on “high cost” employer-sponsored health plans; educators would be among the hardest-hit workers according to an analysis in Health Affairs. The Affordable Care Act makes health benefits taxable if their value exceeds specific thresholds-for single coverage, the threshold is projected to be $11,200, while for family coverage, it is projected to be $30,150. The Tax Policy Center predicts that if the excise tax goes into effect, some employers will switch to less expensive, and therefore less comprehensive, health plans. Send an email urging your senators to cosponsor the companion Senate bill sponsored by Sen. Martin Heinrich (D-NM), S. 684.
House votes to raise the federal minimum wage
The House of Representatives voted on July 18 to raise the federal minimum wage. By a vote of 231-199, members passed the Raise the Wage Act, H.R. 582, legislation that would increase the federal minimum wage-now just $7.25 an hour-for the first time in 10 years. Under the act, the minimum wage would increase to $15 by 2025. A higher federal minimum wage would benefit numerous categories of workers, including many education support professionals, who provide important services to students, yet struggle to get by on what they earn. The legislation would help one-sixth of educators, according to studies, as well as one-fifth of construction workers, a quarter of health care workers, and nearly a third of manufacturing workers. Studies also show the legislation would reduce poverty and income inequality by raising the total annual income of the lowest-paid workers, and help close racial earnings gaps. Send an email urging your senators to cosponsor S. 150, the companion legislation in the Senate.
Cheers and Jeers
All House Democrats, Republicans Reps. Will Hurd of Texas, Brian Fitzpatrick of Pennsylvania, Susan Brooks of Indiana, Fred Upton of Michigan, and Independent Justin Amash of Michigan for voting to condemn President Trump for telling four congresswomen of color to “go back” to their ancestral countries. The vote was 240 to 187 to condemn Trump’s racist remarks.
Sen. Cory Booker (D-NJ) for introducing S. 2068, a bill that would prohibit the Bureau of the Census from including citizenship information in the data it provides to states for legislative redistricting.
Rep. Emanuel Cleaver (D-MO) for introducing the Cady Housh and Gemesha Thomas Suicide Prevention Act of 2019, which authorizes the use of federal Garrett Lee Smith grants for training school employees, as well as secondary-school students, in youth suicide awareness and prevention. Cady and Gemesha were high school students in the Kansas City area who committed suicide in 2014 and 2017, respectively.
Rep. Glenn Grothman (R-WI) for saying “When you take fringe benefits into account, I think you’ll find that teachers are not as underpaid as you think” during the House Committee on Education and Labor’s July 17 hearing on how federal policy can support teachers, where Connecticut Education Association member Michael Brosnan testified.