American Rescue Plan Act heads back to the House
The American Rescue Plan Act passed by the Senate is heading to the House for a final vote with NEA’s top priorities intact. The bill provides $170 billion in dedicated education funding to advance the process of safely returning to in-person instruction at K-12 school buildings. At the higher education level, the funding can be used to provide institutional and student support to address the health, safety, and financial challenges created by COVID-19. An additional $350 billion in state and local aid will help avoid further layoffs of educators and other essential public servants. The bill also provides $7 billion in emergency funding for the Federal Communications Commission’s E-Rate program to address the “homework gap” and students’ lost opportunities to learn.
Other provisions include funding for the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) to test, track, and vaccinate people; larger Affordable Care Act premium subsidies; and extending supplemental unemployment benefits through early October.
Unfortunate changes made by the Senate include eliminating the proposed increase in the federal minimum wage—from $7.25 to $15 per hour by 2025—and shrinking $1,400 checks to zero more quickly for individuals making over $75,000 and married couples making over $150,000. The Senate bill also includes a $2.75 billion set-aside for private schools. Democrats aim to enact the American Rescue Plan Act before March 14, when unemployment benefits for more than 11 million workers begin to expire. TAKE ACTION
House takes initial steps to end police brutality
In a near party-line vote of 220-212, the House passed the George Floyd Justice in Policing Act (H.R. 1280) to help end police brutality, protect civil rights and liberties, and change the culture of law enforcement agencies. These measures \ are part of Justice for Black Lives, the call to action issued by NEA’s executive committee in the wake of George Floyd’s murder and national protests against disproportionate police brutality in Black and brown communities. They include ending racial and religious profiling and no-knock warrants, mandatory de-escalation training for police, prohibiting chokeholds and other potentially fatal maneuvers like the one that killed George Floyd, and requiring police to use dashboard and body cameras. Tell your senators to support the George Floyd Justice in Policing Act. TAKE ACTION
House passes the For the People Act
The For the People Act (H.R. 1), the most comprehensive democracy reform bill in decades, passed the House by a vote of 220-210 last week. 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, among other things, institute automatic voter registration and 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 the 51st state. Tell your senators to support the For the People Act. TAKE ACTION
House prepares to vote on preventing gun violence
The House could vote as soon as this week on two common-sense gun reform bills: the Bipartisan Background Checks Act (H.R. 8), which would require a background check for every gun sold and most transfers, and the Enhanced Background Checks Act (H.R. 1446), which would extend the initial background check review period from 3 to 10 days.
Like most Americans, NEA members overwhelmingly support universal background checks. Firearms are the leading cause of death for African American children, and the second leading cause of death for all American children. Everytown for Gun Safety identified 549 incidents of gunfire on school grounds between 2013 and 2019. The U.S. government’s K-12 school shooting database shows a record number of incidents of gun violence in the last 3 years—the most since 1970, which is as far back as the data goes. Help keep our students safe by requiring a background check for every gun sold. TAKE ACTION
Sen. Chris Murphy (D-CT) and Rep. Mike Thompson (D-CA) reintroduced the Bipartisan Background Checks Act (S. 529/H.R. 8) to require a background check for every gun sold, as well as most transfers.
Sen. Richard Blumenthal (D-CT) and House Majority Whip Jim Clyburn (D-SC) reintroduced legislation to close the “Charleston loophole” that allows gun ownership to be transferred after 3 days even if the background check is incomplete. The House bill is the Enhanced Background Checks Act (H.R. 1446) and the Senate bill is the Background Check Completion Act.
Sens. Richard Burr (R-NC), Shelley Moore Capito (R-WV), Bill Cassidy (R-LA), Susan Collins (R-ME), John Cornyn (R-TX), Deb Fischer (R-NE), Chuck Grassley (R-IA), Ron Johnson (R-WI), Mitch McConnell (R-KY), Lisa Murkowski (R-AK), Rob Portman (R-OH), Mitt Romney (R-UT), Marco Rubio (R-FL), and Thom Tillis (R-NC) joined their Democratic colleagues in voting to confirm Dr. Miguel Cardona as U.S. Secretary of Education.
Michigan Democratic Reps. Rashida Tlaib, Debbie Dingell, Andy Levin, and Haley Stevens sent a letter urging the U.S. Department of Education “to approve and issue waivers for any federal testing requirements for all states who request them for this school year.”
Reps. Jared Golden (D-ME) and Ron Kind (D-WI) voted against the George Floyd Justice in Policing Act.
33 Republican senators voted against confirming Dr. Miguel Cardona as U.S. Secretary of Education.