EdAction in Congress

EdAction in Congress August 9, 2020

More talk, no action on next COVID-19 package

On Friday, talks between congressional and administration leaders ended with no resolution. It is unclear if or when talks will resume. As they struggled to agree on a response to the mounting damage from COVID-19, enhanced unemployment benefits for 30 million Americans expired and a moratorium that puts 12 million renters at risk of eviction ended. For 11 weeks after the House passed the HEROES Act, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) wasted time and did nothing. On July 27, he introduced an inadequate, unserious plan. Now, he refuses to join the negotiations.

Officially called the HEALS Act—a cruel irony—McConnell’s proposal does too little, too late about what students, parents, and educators care about most: reopening schools safely and equitably, providing meaningful distance learning, and bridging the gaps in state and local budgets that have already cost educators their jobs. Key provisions of McConnell’s proposal include liability protection, pressuring schools to reopen without regard to safety, and voucher-like schemes that rob public schools and the students most in need of scarce resources. Republicans do not have a unified position and the administration is not on board with much of what McConnell has proposed, further complicating Democratic efforts to agree on a bill.

It is unacceptable that McConnell and the administration do not and will not accept the reality and gravity of the crisis and what is needed to address it. Students, educators and the country will continue to suffer as a result of their dereliction of duty. We will continue making the case for what is needed, but to save lives, stem the economic decline, and begin the healing, the Republican-led Senate and administration need to stop playing games and help craft a bipartisan bill that can pass both chambers of Congress. The road to recovery truly does run through our schools and campuses. We are at a critical point. There is no time to waste. Please call your senators at 866-374-7034. 

These senators are standing in the way of funding to stabilize public schools

Nearly 2 million education jobs could be lost over the next three years if the Senate fails to act soon to close growing state and local budget gaps caused by COVID-19, an NEA analysis and state-by-state breakdown warned. These five senators are standing by as Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) refuses to participate in negotiations and provide funding to stabilize our schools:

Susan Collins, Maine

So far, Sen. Collins has promised action on behalf of education, but there are no signs that she can succeed in moving McConnell to act on another COVID-19 relief bill. This has been a common complaint about Collins in the last few years: big talk, but little delivery on her words. Will she step up and deliver for the educators and students who are depending on Congress to help states stabilize schools? Maine educators and students sure need her now, with 11,000 educator jobs on the line in Maine alone.

Steve Daines, Montana

With Sen. Daines’ approval numbers slipping to 48 percent amid the pandemic, it is no surprise that educators in Montana feel their voices are not being heard, their students are going unrepresented, and over 7,000 jobs are on the line. Daines also filed an amicus brief to the Supreme Court in support of public funding for religious education in Espinoza v. Montana Department of Revenue. The case could create a legal path for the expansion of voucher programs, further draining already scarce resources from the public schools that serve 90 percent of our nation’s students.

Cory Gardner, Colorado

Sen. Gardner has blocked the rights of educators for years, a situation that has been exacerbated by the coronavirus pandemic. Having previously received $49,800 from the DeVos family, Gardner has time and again supported an anti-public education agenda. Now, nearly 30,000 Colorado educator jobs are on the line.

Martha McSally, Arizona

While thousands of residents of Arizona suffered the physical and financial effects of the COVID-19 pandemic, Sen. McSally said that smaller cities and towns are on their own to receive funding. Instead of supporting additional funding to protect the 36,606 Arizona education jobs that could be lost over three years, she accused smaller cities of using pandemic relief as a “cash cow.” However, even with relief funding, many municipalities will still suffer from the impact of the pandemic. McSally has enabled McConnell’s obstructionism, leaving her constituents without the leadership and relief they need.

Thom Tillis, North Carolina

In a state that is projected to lose nearly 80,000 educator jobs over three years, one of the highest projections in the country, Thom Tillis has been missing in action. These educators and their families will be subject to one of the nation’s lowest unemployment benefits because of cuts made by Tillis. He has blocked Medicaid expansion and attempted to dismantle the Affordable Care Act, even at the height of the pandemic.

Tell senators to support the John Lewis Voting Rights Advancement Act

Educators rally to pass the Voting Rights Amendment ActAugust 6 was the 55th anniversary of the signing of the landmark Voting Rights Act, key portions of which were invalidated in 2013 by the Supreme Court’s decision in Shelby v. Holder. Recent primary elections in Wisconsin and Georgia were riddled with problems—polling place closures, long lines with hours-long waits, unfulfilled absentee ballot requests, and machine breakdowns—that could have been avoided if we had the full protections of the Voting Rights Act.

The Voting Rights Advancement Act (VRAA), a direct response to Shelby v. Holder, was recently reintroduced as the John Lewis Voting Rights Advancement Act. Lewis, the first Black lawmaker to lie in state in the U.S. Capitol Rotunda, helped lead the historic 1965 march for voting rights in Selma, Alabama, that led to the passage and signing of the Voting Rights Act. The House passed the VRAA in December 2019, after a dozen hearings documenting the continued persistence of racial discrimination in voting. Now, it’s up to the Senate. TAKE ACTION

Cheers and Jeers

Sen. Lisa Murkowski (R-AK) does not support filling a Supreme Court vacancy before 2021. “When Republicans held off Merrick Garland it was because nine months prior to the election was too close, we needed to let people decide,” she said. “If we now say that months prior to the election is OK when nine months was not, that is a double standard and I don’t believe we should do it. So I would not support it.”

Rep. Carolyn Maloney (D-NY) introduced the Fair and Accurate Census Act (H.R. 7034) to maintain the expanded schedule designed Census Bureau staff to ensure all communities are fully and fairly counted despite the COVID-19 pandemic.

Sen. Dick Durbin (D-IL) and 29 of his colleagues sent a letter urging Senate leadership not to condition receipt of education funds in the next coronavirus relief package on reopening schools for in-person instruction.

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