House rewrite of Higher Education Act fulfills key NEA goals
The College Affordability Act (H.R. 4674), introduced Oct. 15 by the House Education and Labor Committee chaired by Rep. Bobby Scott (D-VA), fulfills key NEA goals for reauthorization of the Higher Education Act (HEA) that governs federal student-aid programs, federal aid to colleges, oversight of teacher preparation programs, and more. “On behalf of our country’s educators and students, NEA is proud to strongly support Chairman Scott’s College Affordability Act and looks forward to the legislation moving swiftly through the House,” NEA President Lily Eskelsen García said. The bill would help ensure that teachers have the right skills and tools to prepare students for the future; substantially improve the Public Service Loan Forgiveness program; prioritize the needs and conditions of students and borrowers, as opposed to lenders; and provide permanent, mandatory funding for HBCUs and minority-serving institutions. Tell your representative to support the bill and your senators that students and educators need a comprehensive HEA reauthorization. TAKE ACTION
Vote coming on DeVos ally nominated to serve as appellate judge
The Senate Judiciary Committee could vote as soon as this week on Steven Menashi’s nomination to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit. An architect of Education Secretary Betsy DeVos’ disastrous policies, Menashi could do even more harm as an appellate judge. He has failed to protect students from predatory online institutions, failed to ensure student loans are forgiven for public service, weakened protections against sexual assault and harassment, and is openly hostile to education and civil rights—to give just two examples, he lamented that our education system promotes “egalitarianism” and opposed student financial aid because it “punishes” affluent families. Menashi also worked with presidential adviser Stephen Miller on immigration policies that have terrified and traumatized our students, their families, and entire communities. Tell your senators to VOTE NO on Menashi. TAKE ACTION
Tell senators to push to repeal tax on middle class health benefits
Unless the Senate acts, working families’ health benefits will be taxed. Three months ago, the House voted 419-6 to repeal the tax on middle class health benefits scheduled to take effect in 2022. Now, it’s up to the Senate. According to an analysis published in Health Affairs, educators would be among those hit hardest. Already, employers are pushing to scale back health benefits. Over the last decade, the Kaiser Family Foundation reports, family premiums have gone up 55 percent and deductibles 212 percent—far more than the 26 percent increase in workers’ earnings over the same period. Workers can’t afford a new tax on their benefits. The Middle Class Health Benefits Tax Repeal Act (S. 684) has 62 cosponsors—more than enough for passage if leadership allows a vote. Tell your senators to cosponsor S. 684, if they haven’t already, and urge Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) to bring it to the floor. TAKE ACTION
Elijah Cummings will be missed
Rep. Elijah Cummings (D-MD) died this week after 23 years in the U.S. House of Representatives. The son of sharecroppers from South Carolina, he grew up in a three-room house in Baltimore with six siblings and graduated Phi Beta Kappa from Howard University after a childhood in special education classes. “When I became a lawyer, no one asked me if I had spent some time in special ed,” he said. “All they wanted was a good lawyer. The same little boys that bullied me, the same ones that beat me up, they became my clients.”
NEA President Lily Eskelsen García summed up the feelings of educators all across America in her tweet: “Deeply saddened to hear that Rep. Elijah Cummings has passed away. He was tenacious, remarkable, and kind. A champion for civil rights, for students, for public education, and for Baltimore. Rest in Peace. Rest in Power.”
Cheers and Jeers
Rep. Suzanne Bonamici (D-OR) held a hearing on Oct. 16, “Examining the USDA’s Proposed Cuts to Free School Meals.” The proposed cuts could endanger automatic eligibility for school meals for more than 500,000 students. At the hearing, Reps. Marcia Fudge (D-OH), Jahana Hayes (D-CT), Raúl Grijalva (D-AZ), Barbara Lee (D-TX), David Trone (D-MD), Kim Schrier (D-WA), Marty Wilde (D-OR), Bobby Scott (D-VA), Pramila Jayapal (D-WA), and Alma Adams (D-NC) spoke out against the SNAP cuts proposed by the administration.
Rep. Alma Adams (D-NC) submitted NEA’s comments for the record in connection with the hearing on the administration’s proposed cuts in school meals.