Education News

EdAction in Congress October 27, 2019

Push for census funding for our students’ sake

Funding for next year’s census is among the key issues still to be decided as Congress struggles to finalize spending bills for FY2020, which began Oct. 1. The census is vitally important to America’s students because it determines the allocation of billions of dollars in federal funding for public education, including Title I schools serving more than 24 million students from low-income families, special education grants to the states, and school breakfast and lunch programs. The census also governs distribution of funds to the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) that keeps millions of families out of poverty and has lasting benefits for children’s health and academic success.

To ensure the correct amounts are allocated for these programs, everyone must be counted. The Census Bureau needs to hire enough staff to conduct outreach everywhere, especially with communities of color, immigrants, and low-income people where undercounting tends to be a problem. Tell your representatives to push for properly funding the 2020 Census. TAKE ACTION

Support the Voting Rights Advancement Act

The Voting Rights Advancement Act of 2019 (H.R. 4), passed by the House Judiciary Committee last week, would once again require states and localities with 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 to address persistent and purposeful discrimination—through literacy tests, poll taxes, intimidation, threats, and violence—that curtailed political participation for millions of Americans. In the absence of critical federal oversight, many states implemented laws that restricted voting in the 2016 and 2018 elections. Urge your representatives to support the Voting Rights Advancement Act. TAKE ACTION

NEA members discuss homework gap and immigration with Congress

Members of Congress featured NEA members’ views on two key issues: access to digital resources in rural areas and the harmful impact of immigration raids. Anthony Angelini, a teacher at New Oxford Middle School in Pennsylvania, stressed the importance of high-speed internet and the role of E-Rate in bringing it to rural areas at an Oct. 21 congressional field hearing in Gettysburg, “Harvesting the Digital Age: Connecting our Communities for a Better Future,” hosted by Reps. Abby Finkenauer (D-IA) and John Joyce (R-PA), chairwoman and ranking member, respectively, of the House Small Business Subcommittee on Rural Development, Agriculture, Trade, and Entrepreneurship. Angela Wolf, a teacher at Briggs Chaney Middle School in Maryland, was a panelist at an Oct. 25 event on Capitol Hill, “A Briefing on How Immigration and Customs Enforcement Actions Harm Communities,” hosted by Rep. Bennie Thompson (D-MS), chairman of the House Committee on Homeland Security.

Cheers and Jeers

Rep. Jerry Nadler (D-NY) is leading the bipartisan Pregnant Workers Fairness Act (H.R. 2694), which would help prevent employers from forcing pregnant women out of the workplace and help ensure that employers provide reasonable accommodations to pregnant women who want to keep working.

Rep. Frank Pallone (D-NJ) is leading the Lower Drug Costs Now Act of 2019 (H.R. 3), which passed out of the House Energy and Commerce and Ways and Means Committees last week. The bill would end the ban on Medicare negotiating directly with drug companies, which would in turn help lower drug prices for all Americans.

Reps. Brian Fitzpatrick (R-PA) and Chris Smith (R-NJ) for making the Public Service Freedom to Negotiate Act (H.R. 3463) bipartisan by becoming cosponsors. The bill would set a minimum nationwide standard for collective bargaining rights provided by the states.

Reps. Peter DeFazio (D-OR) and Cathy McMorris Rodgers (R-WA) led a bipartisan sign-on letter urging House leadership to include at least a two-year reauthorization of the Secure Rural Schools program in any end-of-year legislation.

Sen. Susan Collins (R-ME) announced that she opposes Steven Menashi’s nomination to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit, which NEA strongly opposes as well.

Rep. Eleanor Holmes Norton (D-DC) and Congressional Black Caucus (CBC) Chairwoman Karen Bass (D-CA) led a letter to Senate leadership opposing Steven Menashi’s nomination to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit. All CBC members representing districts covered by the Second Circuit also signed the letter: Jahana Hayes (D-CT), Gregory Meeks (D-NY), Hakeem Jeffries (D-NY), Yvette Clarke (D-NY), and Antonio Delgado (D-NY).

Education Secretary Betsy DeVos was held in contempt for violating a court order to cease collecting loan payments after May 2018 from former Corinthian College students. More than 16,000 students were told they had payments due when that was not the case and nearly 2,000 lost wages or tax refunds as a result, the Washington Post reported.

Sen. Ron Johnson (R-WI), along with Sens. Dianne Feinstein (D-CA), Tim Scott (R-SC), and Mike Braun (R-IN), introduced S. 2682, which would permanently reauthorize SOAR, the District of Columbia’s voucher program.

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