Tell Congress to pass a robust COVID-19 package
The sea change in the outlook for robust COVID-19 relief is proof elections really do have consequences. NEA and the Biden administration are on the same page: additional, significant relief is needed—and it is needed fast. If building bipartisan support proves impossible, Democrats have signaled they will use reconciliation, a process limited to circumstances involving budgetary matters.
Normally, passing a bill in the Senate requires a supermajority of 60 votes. Under reconciliation, the majority party—in this case, Democrats—can advance legislation with a simple majority vote. When there’s a 50-50 tie (the current partisan breakdown), the vice president casts the deciding vote.
Using reconciliation to provide much-needed COVID-19 relief is not President Biden’s or Democrats’ first choice. But it is the key to preventing what happened during the last Congress: The House passed multiple bills providing robust COVID-19 relief, only to have them die when former Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) blocked a floor vote.
NEA’s top priorities for COVID-19 relief include dedicated education funding, state and local aid, and closing the homework gap via the E-Rate program. Specifically, we support Biden’s proposed $130 billion in dedicated funding to help public K-12 school buildings reopen safely plus $35 billion to help public colleges and universities do the same. An additional $350 billion in state and local aid is needed to avoid further layoffs of educators and other essential public servants.
Another big issue is the lack of paid sick leave—many education support professionals are among the 60 percent of U.S. workers who do not have access to paid sick leave through their employers. NEA is urging Congress to renew the requirement that employers provide paid sick and expand family and medical leave during the pandemic—make it available to eligible employees whether school buildings are open or closed, and require all employers to provide it.
There’s no time to waste. A robust COVID-19 package is essential to reopening school buildings safely, closing opportunity and learning gaps for students, and saving educators’ jobs. TAKE ACTION
House expected to vote soon on democracy reforms
The For the People Act (H.R. 1), the most comprehensive democracy reform bill in decades, is expected to come to the House floor soon. The measure rests on three pillars: reaffirming and expanding voting rights, strengthening oversight to end big money in politics, and ensuring an ethical government. To achieve these goals, H.R. 1 would institute automatic voter registration, voluntary public financing of campaigns, place new limits on partisan practices like gerrymandering and purging voter rolls, and require 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. TAKE ACTION
NEA’s top priorities in Congress
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. Read more.
Cheers and Jeers
Sen. Tom Carper (D-DE) reintroduced the D.C. Admission Act (S. 51) to make Washington, D.C. a state and ensure equal representation for its 700,000 residents.
Rep. Bobby Scott (D-VA) reintroduced the Raise the Wage Act, which would gradually raise the federal minimum wage to $15 by 2025 and increase pay for nearly 32 million workers.
Rep. Bobby Scott (D-VA) introduced the Emergency Pension Plan Relief Act, which would create a special partition program that would expand the authority of the Pension Benefit Guarantee Corporation (PBGC), increase the number of eligible plans, and simplify the application process.
Rep. Bobby Scott (D-VA) reintroduced the National Apprenticeship Act (H.R. 447), which would amend the existing national apprenticeship program to include both pre-apprenticeships and youth apprenticeships, while also defining guidelines for registered apprenticeship programs.
Rep. Bobby Scott (D-VA) reintroduced the Reopen and Rebuild America’s Schools Act (H.R. 604) which would provide $130 targeted at high-poverty schools to help reopen public schools and give students and educators a safe place to learn and work.
Rep. Jahana Hayes (D-CT) reintroduced the Save Education Jobs Act (H.R. 542) to preserve nearly 4 million education jobs, spur economic growth, and help mitigate the impact of students’ lost opportunities to learn during the COVID-19 pandemic.
Rep. Jahana Hayes (D-CT) is leading a letter asking that Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene (R-GA) be stripped of her seat on the House Education and Labor Committee.
Rep. Brian Schatz (D-HI) sent a letter urging President Biden to prioritize demilitarization of law enforcement including the 1033 program under which the military transfers rifles, armored vehicles, and other weapons of war to local law enforcement agencies.
Rep. Marjorie Taylor Green (R-GA) was put on the House Education and Labor Committee by GOP leadership despite her support for false claims that several school shootings were staged, including the 2012 Newtown, Conn. shooting where 26 people died and the 2018 Parkland, Fla. shooting where 17 people died. NEA President Becky Pringle tweeted, “Someone who lies about the massacres of students and educators should not be on the education committee.”