Education News

NEA’s top priorities in Congress

By Barbara Moldauer and Amanda Menas

Educators have high hopes for improving racial and social justice within school communities under the Biden-Harris administration during the 117th Congress. NEA, which represents 3 million educators nationwide, is calling on Congress to ensure that the lives of all of our students–Black, White, Latino, Native, LGBTQ+, and newcomers–are valued, and that all students have access to high quality public education and protections against discrimination.

NEA is dedicated to rebuilding public schools with an emphasis on equity, returning to the classroom safely, protecting vulnerable students, and helping educators navigate their rights and responsibilities during the pandemic.

“We will get into good trouble every day, in every state, in every community all across this nation to keep our students and educators safe and center our schools in equity and excellence during the COVID-19 crisis,” NEA President Becky Pringle has promised.

To ensure all students and educators are safe from discrimination, educators want Congress to pass the Equality Act. This bill would amend the Civil Rights Act of 1964 to include sexual orientation and gender identity.

Because all students deserve communities where they can live without fear, Congress should enact meaningful law enforcement reforms, for example by passing the George Floyd Justice in Policing Act.

Another priority is comprehensive immigration reform that provides legal status and pathways to citizenship for Dreamers–people brought to the United States as minors who know no other country as home–and others allowed to remain here for humanitarian reasons. On his first day in office, President Biden sent Congress a plan called the U.S. Citizenship Act, a comprehensive immigration reform bill that takes steps to help keep families together. It provides an eight-year path to citizenship for millions of undocumented people living in the United States on Jan. 1, 2021.

Educators defended our democracy during the 2020 elections by educating voters in their own communities about casting ballots safely during the pandemic. Now, educators are advocating for democracy reforms – ensuring access to the ballot box by making it easier to vote, restoring protections eliminated by the Supreme Court’s decision in Shelby v. Holder, and making the District of Columbia a state.

NEA believes strongly that both inside school buildings and throughout school communities, federal legislation and resources should target the students most in need–for example, increased funding for Title I of the Every Student Succeeds Act, the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act, and full-service community schools. Community schools provide a variety of resources to students, educators, and families to improve food security and health care.

Congress should also ensure that all students have access to healthy school meals and maximize access to the Supplemental Food Assistance Program (also known as food stamps). Improving the Affordable Care Act by focusing on comprehensive coverage that reduces out-of-pocket costs for individuals and families, including prescription drugs is another priority.

President Joe Biden has prioritized educators in vaccine distribution plans and pledged to supply schools with the resources they need to reopen buildings and campuses safely, moves that NEA supports.

“From day one of his administration, President Joe Biden is demonstrating he is listening to educators and proving that he understands the complexities of providing students with safe and equitable learning environments during the COVID-19 pandemic,” said Rebecca Pringle.

Tens of billions of dollars of emergency funding are needed to address a variety of immediate needs: equipping students and educators for remote teaching and learning via the E-Rate program, paid sick leave, ameliorating hunger and homelessness, and state and local aid to avoid laying off educators, firefighters, and other essential public servants. Additionally, public school buildings are in need of significant renovation and repairs to improve indoor air quality, and provide adequate connectivity for digital learning.

In higher education, the top priorities are relief for student loan borrowers and reauthorizing the Higher Education Act that governs student-aid programs, federal aid to colleges, and oversight of teacher preparation programs. Congress should focus on making higher education more accessible and affordable, expanding public service loan forgiveness, and enhancing diversity in the educator workforce.

Educators know that their ability to bargain collectively and advocate for change not only benefits themselves, but also their students. Congress can ensure that our nation’s 20 million public employees have the right to organize and bargain collectively by passing the Public Service Freedom to Negotiate Act. Legislators can reinforce retirement security by protecting Medicare, preserving Social Security, and repealing the Government Pension Offset (GPO) and Windfall Elimination Provision (WEP) that deprive public employees of Social Security benefits they have earned.

24 responses to “NEA’s top priorities in Congress

  1. Though I know there will be much Republican obstructionism, I am very hopeful the Biden/Harris administration can get big things done in education and many other areas! As a granddaughter of Mexican immigrants, providing citizenship to Dreamers and those currently in the country undocumented are proposals very close to my heart. All of NEA’s top priorities are great. I would also like to see something about equalizing school funding. I know achieving our priorities will take more grassroots participation and support than ever, and I’m ready to give more money and time than I ever have before in order to help make this happen. I hope the administration and NEA will provide leadership for organizing public support and will be democratic in their approach. My prayers and activism are with us!

  2. As a public school teacher, I pay into CAL STRS. I also paid into Social Security for more that 35 years often working two jobs. I met the minimum SS annual limit for 26 of those years…
    The Windfall Elimination Provision (WEP) will deprive me of the Social Security benefits that I have earned.
    . PLEASE HELP.
    Many teachers paid into Cal STRS and Social Security for many years! We deserve to receive all of what we paid into both retirement programs like everyone else! This has been on NEA’s priority list for years????What is happening with this provision?

    1. I agree with you Vicki, I am an RN who worked both in the government and private sector during my career. We gave our ALL, you educating our youngsters and me saving lives as a Trauma Operating Room RN, so much so that in my case I am left with a significant back injury and can barely walk at only 64 years old. I paid my fair share into both social security and my government pension employment and I deserve the benefits that I honestly worked for and paid for with not only my time and hours but ultimately my own health. I am praying this new administration sees that and restores our duly earned benefits.

      1. I agree with you I have worked in both area. The government needs to do better for our family, children, and our communities to a better environment and to give equal opportunities.

    2. I agree! I worked hard to earn a living and paying into social security as a good citizen. Why should I be penalized for it. Every little bit helps in retirement and I’m being deprived of it.

    3. This should be a much bigger priority for NEA than some of more radical liberal agenda they emphasize. Our own members are being denied SS benefits they earned in other employment besides their teaching by this unfair act

      1. I worked outside the school district to worked and continued to my social security like everyone else and contribute to my school employment for 10 years at 50 % lower wages less than private sector , why should I get no or lower social security benefits at retirement that I have contributed into. It’s not worth serving the public system and put tic us at a worst disadvantage that we already are!

    4. Agreed, and informing younger and early educators about the reduction of their Social Security benefits, is extremely important. Not all states have the WEP/GPO and it’s just so unfair to penalize some teachers with public pensions, but not others. Even with 22 years of contributions to Social Security my benefits will be reduced in half, with at least 10 years of my earnings not even considered, because Social Security calls them “Not substantial” earnings. There is no consideration of the Minimum Wage earnings 4 decades ago… working your way through college, 30-35 hours per week and full-time load in college. Teachers sacrificing their own hard-earned contributions, never to be seen again… how can we continue to attract young people to join the profession that will cause them a loss of hundreds of thousands due them in retirement years..?!

  3. As a public school teacher, I pay into CAL STRS. I also paid into Social Security for more that 35 years often working two jobs. I met the minimum SS annual limit for 26 of those years…
    The Windfall Elimination Provision (WEP) will deprive me of the Social Security benefits that I have earned.
    When will we, as teachers, get the same SS benefit that firemen, policemen, military and other public servants receive from Social Security.? Is this because there are so many women teaching and we serve and do not complain?. PLEASE HELP.
    Many teachers paid into Cal STRS and Social Security for many years! We deserve to receive all of what we paid into both retirement programs like everyone else! This has been on NEA’s priority list for years????What is happening with this provision?

    1. The WEP has been presented to congress over and over for many years, often with upwards of 200 co-sponsors who support the repeal of this unfair law. It gets as far as the final review committee, gets as far as their inbox and there it sits until the end of the term without ever even being brought into discussion. It never even makes it to the next level for final approval, it is just ignored along with all our work and all the support of over 200 of our elected officials. It is well past time for action and I am praying that Biden and his team finally stand up and support those of us who as both public and private servants have spent our lives working on behalf of our citizens.

    2. The WEP punishes some of the hardest working of all citizens, it punishes teachers, nurses, first responders including firefighters, police, ems etc. Those of us of all races, religions and backgrounds who support our citizens and children of all races, religions and colors. We have served our country well during our working years, all we are asking for is to receive what we have earned during our working years during our retirement, we are not asking for a hand out, we simply are asking for compensation that we fairly and honestly earned with our hard work. The WEP actually punishes us for ‘working too hard’…it is insanity and should be repealed immediately.

  4. America has always touted The Land of Opportunity for All” so let’s make this a true reality! Let’s make each & every citizen’s vote count equally & stop the empowerment of corporations & well-funded entities as if they are more equal than the citizens.

    1. As a public school teacher, I pay into CAL STRS. I also paid into Social Security for more that 35 years often working two jobs. I met the minimum SS annual limit for 26 of those years…
      The Windfall Elimination Provision (WEP) will deprive me of the Social Security benefits that I have earned.
      When will we, as teachers, get the same SS benefit that firemen, policemen, military and other public servants receive from Social Security.? Is this because there are so many women teaching and we serve and do not complain?. PLEASE HELP.
      Many teachers paid into Cal STRS and Social Security for many years! We deserve to receive all of what we paid into both retirement programs like everyone else! This has been on NEA’s priority list for years????What is happening with this provision?

    2. Our country was founded on freedom for all. The only way everyone not from a native family came here was by transportation in one form or another. Please keep our founding fathers’ tenets and keep our freedoms for ALL, NOT for the few who want the power.

  5. Yes, yes, yes. I want to see my daughters (Native American, bisexual, heterosexual), all represented equitably. My grandchildren too. And I know they aren’t because of my own and their experience and their friends experiences in school.

  6. We already have equity. Which students are vulnerable? What does this mean? How do we prevent discrimination? It doesn’t happen by passing a bill. As far as the George Floyd Justice in Policing Act, this Act limits the capabilities of Police. Let’s hold the criminals accountable, not restrict the police. George Floyd died because of the amphetamines, cocaine and fentynol in system, not as a result of police brutality. He was a career criminal and he was being restrained because he was not cooperating with police. It’s a shame that he died but let’s not make him a hero by naming this Act after him.

    1. If you think we have equity, then you are one of the group that enjoys white privilege without actually even knowing what it is. Please ask someone who does.
      If you have no idea which students are vulnerable, your students obviously live in “safe” community, in a home where one or both parents who bring home a salary that meets all of their needs with some left over for the extras like fun vacations, and some of the new necessities like technology that allows them to attend school from anywhere they are, including thier safe bedrooms.
      If you think that passing a bill will not prevent discrimination, you are right, but having to pay for hate crimes with time and money will make ust a few people think twice and may actually deter some. Eventually, if enough are deterred for fear of the loss of money, freedom or the embarrassment of time in jail, or even being ostracized by their used-to-be friends, the problems may become manageable enough to work toward solutions. or disappear, maybe.
      If you fail to see that defunding the policemen actually means share the police budgets with professionals that can assess and determine appropriate disposition of troubled people ,maybe you would understand if your troubled sibling or child was summarily murdered by law enforcement. As a result of a distraught family calling police for help, no less. As a christian, I hope you never have to ‘buy’ that experience with the loss of a friend or loved one.
      If you think naming a law after a “career criminal”, you fail to understand that even career criminals belong to families that love them, that labels do not always accurately describe the victims of “legal” violence. The reasons for naming a law after someone has more to do with ending the practice that wronged/murdered someone than who they may be perceived to be. The issue is the freedom for police to kill or harm with impunity, more than it is the perceived “value” (or devalue) of a person. Naming a law after George Floyd does not change the fact that George Floyd was himself a victim of unust police practices. If it makes a dead hero of him, there is a huge family out there that morns their loss and for some strange reason would rather have their lost brother, son, father, friend, co-worker alive, not a hero.

      1. SByrd, you have serious issues! First of all, there is no such thing as white privilege. My parents came from another country and I grew up dirt poor. My father was a disabled veteran but managed to get a college degree from Rutgers U, without speaking English. We all became successful with hard work and got college degrees. We didn’t have the benefit of the Civil Rights Act, Title VII, Affirmative Action, Civil Service job quotas, points on college applications for minorities and more. I don’t feel guilty for being white. We obey the law and cooperate with police when pulled over or given a lawful order. George Floyd didn’t and ended up dead because of his ingestion of drugs and by not cooperating with police. He was no stellar individual and his family has my sympathy, but they should not name this Act after him.

  7. Definitely agree. Emergency funding is needed to address a variety of immediate needs: equipping students and educators for remote teaching and learning via the E-Rate program, paid sick leave, ameliorating hunger and homelessness, and state and local aid to avoid laying off educators, firefighters, and other essential public servants. Additionally, public school buildings are in need of significant renovation and repairs to improve indoor air quality, and provide adequate connectivity for digital learning.

  8. Rebuild our public school not the private sector. Make education the piece that unites allAmericans equally!

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