American Rescue Plan makes biggest education investment in U.S. history, cuts child poverty in half
President Biden signed the American Rescue Plan into law on March 11, the day after Congress finally passed it. The $1.9 trillion stimulus package will provide critical funding for public schools, create and support millions of jobs, cut child poverty in half, make health care more affordable, and put this pandemic behind us.
“This historic legislation not only provides the resources to help every school building put in place the effective measures needed to keep students and educators safe; it also makes extraordinary investments that will lift countless children and families out of poverty and works to address the immense inequities that have systematically affected the most vulnerable students and communities of color,” said NEA President Becky Pringle. The bill provides economic relief, updates vaccination efforts, and helps educators and students return to in-person learning.
Over the past months, NEA members and activists wrote hundreds of thousands of messages and placed thousands of calls to their senators and representatives advocating for Congress to pass this package that will include the single largest investment ever in education funding, providing nearly $170 billion to public schools. READ MORE
House votes for common-sense gun reforms
Last Thursday, the House passed two common-sense gun reform bills: the Bipartisan Background Checks Act (H.R. 8), which requires a background check for every gun sold and most transfers, and the Enhanced Background Checks Act (H.R. 1446), which extends 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. Help keep our students safe by urging your senators to support legislation requiring a background check for every gun sold. TAKE ACTION
Updated Dream Act would help nearly 3 million
The House is preparing to vote on the American Dream and Promise Act (H.R. 6)—possibly, as early as this week. The bill would help more than 3 million undocumented individuals, including Dreamers brought to this country before age 18, recipients of Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA), and people granted Temporary Protected Status (TPS) or Deferred Enforced Departure (DED) for humanitarian reasons—populations that include nearly 40,000 educators, according to the Migration Policy Institute.
Dreamers could obtain conditional legal status if they have a high school diploma or GED, are enrolled in a high school or GED program, or are enrolled in an apprenticeship program. They would have ten years to transition from conditional status to a green card, and could do so by earning a college degree, completing at least two years of postsecondary education, serving in the military for two years, or being employed for at least three years. The bill would also make Dreamers eligible for federal financial aid. TAKE ACTION
Senate Judiciary Committee to hold hearing on the Equality Act
This Wednesday, the Senate Judiciary Committee will hold a hearing on the Equality Act (S. 393). The bill would amend the Civil Rights Act of 1964, the Fair Housing Act, and other federal laws to include sexual orientation and gender identity, giving LGBTQ Americans explicit protection from discrimination in key areas of life: employment, housing, credit, education, public spaces and services, federally funded programs, and jury service. The current patchwork of state laws—most lack non-discrimination policies that include sexual orientation and gender identity—leaves many students and educators vulnerable to discrimination and sends the message LGBTQ Americans are second-class citizens. The House has already passed the Equality Act. Now, it’s up to the Senate. TAKE ACTION
Cheers and Jeers
The House passed the PRO Act (H.R. 842), which takes steps to reduce barriers to union organizing in the private sector, by a vote of 225-206 in which five Republicans supported the bill: Brian Fitzpatrick (PA), John Katko (NY), Chris Smith (NJ), Jeff Van Drew (NJ), and Don Young (AK).
Sen. Dick Durbin (D-IL) reintroduced the RETAIN Act (S. 686), which would provide tax incentives to encourage retention of early childhood and K-12 educators serving the students most in need.
Sens. Elizabeth Warren (D-MA), Ron Wyden (D-OR), Richard Blumenthal (D-CT), Ed Markey (D-MA), and Chris Murphy (D-CT) introduced the Educational Equity Challenge Grant Act (S. 729) to create a $100 billion application-based grant program over the next ten years to help accelerate academic progress and address students’ social, emotional, mental, behavioral, and physical health needs related to COVID-19.
Reps. Zoe Lofgren (D-CA) and Dan Newhouse (R-WA) reintroduced the Farm Workforce Modernization Act (H.R.1603) to provide a compromise solution that makes meaningful reforms to the H-2A agricultural guest worker program and creates a first-of-its-kind, merit-based visa program specifically for the agriculture sector.
Sen. Catherine Cortez Masto (D-NV) reintroduced the Renew America’s Schools Act (S. 694), bipartisan legislation to support America’s schools in making critical infrastructure upgrades that improve energy efficiency and reduce costs.