Biden / Harris administration charts new course
It’s been less than a week since Joe Biden was sworn in as president and Kamala Harris as vice president, and big changes are in the works. Already, President Biden has issued over 25 executive orders to address the pandemic, reverse some of the Trump administration’s most damaging policies, and help reopen most K-8 school buildings within 100 days. In addition, he is urging Congress to pass a $1.9 trillion coronavirus relief and stimulus package that includes $130 billion in dedicated funding for schools, $350 billion in state and local aid, and $35 billion in emergency funds for colleges.
“No one wants to return to in-person learning more than the educators who have dedicated their lives to helping their students succeed, but reopening school buildings must be done safely and equitably,” said NEA President Becky Pringle. “Educators are encouraged not only by President Biden’s leadership, but also by knowing that there is finally a true partner in the White House who will prioritize students by working with educators in the decision-making process.”
President Biden also issued an executive order that restores collective bargaining rights to federal employees, including those in Department of Defense schools represented by the Federal Education Association, an NEA affiliate. Other executive orders prioritize racial and gender equity, roll back the Muslim travel ban, and halt construction of the wall on our southern border. Biden also moved to extend the suspension of student loan payments and interest through Sept. 2021, the federal moratoria on evictions and foreclosures until at least the end of March, and announced that the United States is rejoining the World Health Organization and the Paris climate accords.
This year’s inaugural celebration looked very different from previous inaugurations due to the need for heightened security, social distancing, and face masks to contain the pandemic that has cost 400,000 Americans their lives — more than World War II. Televised festivities featured Hollywood stars and former presidents, but it was kindergarten teacher Mackenzie Adams who stole commentators’ hearts. More than 14 million people have viewed her TikTok video on remote teaching and learning.
Biden immigration bill provides path to citizenship
On his first day in office, President Biden sent Congress the U.S. Citizenship Act, a comprehensive immigration reform bill that provides an eight-year path to citizenship for millions of undocumented people living in the United States on Jan. 1, 2021. The path to citizenship is faster—just three years—for those with Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) protection or Temporary Protected Status (TPS).
To help keep families together, the bill would permit certain immigrants deported during the Trump administration to return if they previously lived in the United States for at least three years. It would also exempt spouses and children of green card holders from employment-based immigration quotas, expand the number of green cards available to employment-based immigrants, and scrap multi-year bars to re-entry for certain undocumented people who lived in the United States and then left.
The bill includes the NEA-supported NO BAN Act that prohibits discrimination based on religion. It would also change the word “alien” to “noncitizen” in U.S. immigration laws—a deliberate step to recognize that America is indeed a nation of immigrants. TAKE ACTION
House to vote soon on democracy reforms
On Jan. 4, Rep. John Sarbanes (D-MD) reintroduced the For the People Act (H.R. 1), the most comprehensive democracy reform bill in decades. The measure rests on three pillars: reaffirming and expanding voting rights, strengthening oversight to end big money in politics, and ensuring an ethical government. Measures to achieve these goals include automatic voter registration, voluntary public financing of campaigns, placing new limits on partisan practices like gerrymandering and purging voter rolls, and requiring candidates for president and vice president to release their tax returns for the previous 10 years. H.R. 1 also makes a strong argument for the District of Columbia to become a state.
Passed by the House nearly two years ago, H.R. 1 was among hundreds of measures consigned to the legislative graveyard of then-Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY). Democrats have renewed the push for action now that they control both the House and the Senate—albeit by razor-thin margins. The full House could vote on H.R. 1 the first week of February. TAKE ACTION
7 changes to expect from Biden’s Department of Education led by Miguel Cardona
During the Biden-Harris administration educators will have new opportunities to advocate for policies at the federal level that will benefit the lives of students, families, and school communities. Issues such as decaying school infrastructure, the digital divide, and lack of access to school nurses and counselors—the results of unjust funding and white supremacy—will begin to be corrected.
President Biden’s nomination of Dr. Miguel Cardona as his education secretary shows he is serious about investing in public schools and listening to educators on what students need to succeed.
Lauren Mancini-Averitt is a high school social studies teacher in the Meriden School District, the same district where Miguel Cardona taught 4th grade, served as an elementary school principal, and later was named Assistant Superintendent for Teaching and Learning. READ MORE and TAKE ACTION
The U.S. Department of Agriculture is increasing Pandemic-EBT meals program benefits for low-income students by 15 percent.