House to vote soon on doubling educator tax deduction
The full House could vote this Tuesday on NEA-endorsed legislation that doubles the educator tax deduction and lifts the $10,000 cap on the state and local tax (SALT) deduction for two years to help ensure adequate funding for public education and other essential services. The Restoring Tax Fairness for States and Localities Act (H.R. 5377) would increase the annual educator tax deduction from $250 to $500—the actual amount 94 percent of public school teachers spent on classroom supplies and instructional materials during the 2014-15 school year, according to a U.S. Department of Education survey. The same survey showed that 1 in 10 teachers spent even more—in excess of $1,000. Email your representatives and tell them to support H.R. 5377. TAKE ACTION
Put rural schools on a firm financial footing
The Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee voted to extend the Secure Rural Schools (SRS) and Community Self-Determination Act (S. 430) for two years. First enacted in 2000, the law supports public education and community services in over 4,400 schools in 770 rural counties located near national forests. But funding has been inconsistent for the last three years—the law expired at the end of 2018. As a result, rural areas across the country are facing budgetary shortfalls that could force big cuts in public education and other essential community services. Tell your representatives to put the SRS program on a firm financial footing. TAKE ACTION
Victory! Congress votes to guarantee funding for HBCUs and MSIs
The bipartisan FUTURE Act heads to President Trump to be signed into law after passing the House by a vote of 319-96 and the Senate by voice vote. The bill permanently reauthorizes and provides $255 million in annual mandatory funding for Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCUs) and other Minority-Serving Institutions (MSIs). The FUTURE Act also takes steps to streamline the financial aid process, including simplifying the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) and eliminating unnecessary paperwork for federal student loan borrowers on income-driven repayment plans.
Cheers and Jeers
The Esther Martinez Native American Languages Programs Reauthorization Act (S. 256) by Sen. Tom Udall (D-NM) has passed both chambers and is headed to President Trump to be signed into law. The bill helps preserve native languages and indigenous dialects.
Rep. Jesús “Chuy” García (D-IL) introduced the New Way Forward Act (H.R. 5383) to fight criminalizing immigrants and restore fundamental due process to our immigration system.
The House passed the Building Blocks of STEM Act (S. 737) by Sen. Jacky Rosen (D-NV). The bill directs the National Science Foundation to support research on factors that discourage or encourage girls to engage in STEM activities, including computer science.
Reps. Frederica Wilson (D-FL), Jahana Hayes (D-CT), Suzanne Bonamici (D-OR), Josh Harder (D-CA), and others grilled Education Secretary Betsy DeVos at a Dec. 12 Education and Labor Committee hearing on debt relief for defrauded students.
Sen. Maggie Hassan (D-NH) joined the chorus of outrage at the failure of Education Secretary Betsy DeVos to stand up for students defrauded by for-profit colleges.
96 members of the House voted against the FUTURE Act—in effect, against ensuring that HBCUS and MSIs receive critical funding.