EdAction in Congress

EdAction in Congress March 1, 2020

Lawmakers grill DeVos about 2021 budget proposal

House appropriators grilled Education Secretary Betsy DeVos at a contentious Feb. 27 hearing. The Trump/DeVos budget proposal for fiscal year 2021, released earlier this month, would slash education funding by $6.1 billion—8.4 percent—compared to the amount Congress provided this year, which included significant increases in key programs like Title I and IDEA. Other budget lowlights include cutting and replacing key education programs with a block grant, robbing public schools of resources with yet another voucher scheme, and ending public service loan forgiveness. Tell your senators and representative to stand up for students and educators and reject these reprehensible proposals. TAKE ACTION

NEA member briefs lawmakers on lunch shaming

NEA member Marcie Villanueva was deeply troubled when she witnessed a cashier take a child’s lunch, throw it away, and replace it with a cheese sandwich, an apple, and milk. “I saw that look of distress come over that child’s face, and the cashier’s face said she was uneasy as well,” says Villanueva. But the employee had to follow the district policy: If a child’s meal account balance was $10 or more in debt, the meal had to be thrown out and replaced, even though the price of the regular lunch was still added to the child’s debt.

Villanueva delivered a straightforward message at a congressional briefing last week in the House: We can do better. Now the lead food service worker at Harlan Elementary School in Wilmington, Delaware, she started working in the field five years ago. Villaneuva urged legislators to take action to end lunch shaming, prevent students from going hungry, and keep school cafeterias from operating in the red. Congress can also help food service workers get access to the training they need. Urge your senators and representative to cosponsor the Improving Training for Food Service Workers Act. TAKE ACTION

Cheers and Jeers

By a vote of 213-195 the House passed the Reversing the Youth Tobacco Epidemic Act of 2019 (H.R. 2339) by Rep. Frank Pallone (D-NJ) to address the recent rise in tobacco use among students. The bill would extend FDA regulations on the sale, distribution, and use of cigarettes and smokeless tobacco to all tobacco products, including e-cigarettes.

By a vote of 410-4 the House passed the Emmett Till Antilynching Act (H.R. 35) by Rep. Bobby Rush (D-IL) to designate lynching as a hate crime under federal law and correct a historic wrong.

Reps. Mark Pocan (D-WI), Sam Graves (R-MO), Suzanne Bonamici (D-OR), and Glenn Thompson (R-PA), and Sens. Susan Collins (R-ME) and John Tester (D-MT) introduced the bipartisan, bicameral Public Schools Week resolution in their respective chambers.

Sen. Chris Van Hollen (D-MD) introduced the Homework Gap Trust Fund Act of 2020 to help communities purchase wireless devices and ensure all students have access to the internet.

Rep. Rosa DeLauro (D-CT), chair of the appropriations subcommittee responsible for education funding, objected to the Trump/DeVos privatization agenda, noting that vouchers have a negative, statistically significant impact on educational achievement—i.e., more vouchers equals lower achievement.

Rep. Nita Lowey (D-NY) raised concerns about the Trump/DeVos proposal to cut dozens of programs, including full-service community schools in her district.


Rep. Barbara Lee (D-CA) objected to the Trump/DeVos plan to stop breaking down preschool enrollment data by race and ethnicity, noting that black students comprise 20 percent of the preschool population and 50 percent of suspensions.

Rep. Mark Pocan (D-WI) noted the poor performance of many charter schools and asked Betsy DeVos what percentage are failing; she said she didn’t know.


Rep. Cheri Bustos (D-IL) discussed the impact of the Trump/DeVos block grant proposal on teacher shortages—vacancies in her district increased from 195 vacancies last year to 235 this year.

Rep. Katherine Clark (D-MA) observed that the proposed Trump/DeVos voucher program does not include a nondiscrimination requirement.

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