EdAction in Congress

EdAction in Congress March 28, 2021

Massacres in Atlanta and Boulder increase demands for gun control

Mass shootings in Atlanta and Boulder less than one week apart have yet again stepped up the demand for commonsense gun control measures. In the Atlanta shooting on March 16, eight people were murdered, including six women from South Korea and China. The killer drove to three different spas and seemed to be targeting women of Asian descent.

Ten people were killed in the March 22 shooting at a King Soopers grocery store in Boulder, including employees of Local 7 of the United Food and Commercial Workers union and a police officer responding to the emergency. We mourn all the victims and join with families, activists, and organizations across the nation in demanding measures to help end gun violence.

In the 2019 Monmouth University Poll, 83 percent of respondents supported comprehensive background checks for all gun sales, including 65 percent of NRA members and 76 percent of gun owners who are not NRA members. The Bipartisan Background Checks Act (S. 529/H.R. 8) would require a background check for every gun sold and most transfers. The Enhanced Background Checks Act (H.R. 1446) extends the initial background check review period from three to 10 days. TAKE ACTION


Reauthorization of child nutrition programs moves forward

NEA provided our principles for strengthening child nutrition programs to the Senate Committee on Agriculture, Nutrition, and Forestry in connection with the committee hearing last week on Child Nutrition Reauthorization (CNR).

CNR is supposed to occur every five years, but has not happened since 2010, when the Healthy, Hunger-Free Kids Act was signed into law. That law remains in force although it expired in September 2015.  Most importantly, we believe healthy school meals should be provided to all students, at no cost to them, a step that would improve their health and classroom performance; eliminate the stigma of student meal debt; and relieve schools of cumbersome paperwork. Our other principles include:

  • Providing ongoing professional development and training for school food service staff, at no cost to the employees, during regular, paid working hours. (These improvements are included in the Improving Training for School Food Service Workers Act.)
  • Increasing access to “out-of-school-time” programs that provide meals and snacks at schools and other sites when children are not in school, such as summer.
  • Directing communications about school meal debts directly to parents and guardians to ensure students are not stigmatized.

In response to the COVID-19 pandemic, Congress created and expanded programs to address hunger in our nation. Members can build on those efforts during Child Nutrition Reauthorization. The goal should not be to return to pre-pandemic conditions, but to make sure all children have access to healthy, nutritious meals that prepare them for learning. TAKE ACTION


House members focus on impact of wage disparities on #EqualPayDay 2021

March 23 was Equal Pay Day—the date this year by which women had worked enough extra days and weeks to earn the same pay that their male counterparts earned last year. The House Committee on Oversight and Reform recognized #EqualPayDay with a hearing on the long-term economic impact of gender inequality. “Routinely earning less than we deserve impacts us for life,” said Committee Chair Carolyn Maloney (D-NY) in her opening statement.

Lower wages result in reduced Social Security and pension benefits such that women earn, on average, approximately $900,000 less than men, she added. NEA provided comments for the record, noting that the gender pay gap exists “in all demographics, all parts of the country, and in nearly all occupations—including female-dominated professions like teaching and nursing.” Witnesses included soccer star Megan Rapinoe, who called out the NCAA for glaring disparities in how it has treated men and women competing in this month’s basketball tournaments, such as providing women athletes with substandard exercise facilities and refusing to allow them to use the March Madness brand.

Last week, NEA also sent the House Education and Labor Committee  a letter for its markup of the Paycheck Fairness Act (H.R. 7), which would, among other provisions, require employers to demonstrate that gender is not the reason they pay employees different wages and put in place robust remedies for discrimination. Our letter also offered support for the Pregnant Workers Fairness Act (H.R. 1065), which would provide for reasonable workplace accommodations to reduce health risks to pregnant women and their babies. TAKE ACTION


Cindy Marten, Education Department nominee, appears before key Senate

Cindy Marten, San Diego Unified School District superintendent and President Biden’s choice for deputy secretary of the Department of Education, spoke before the U.S. Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee last week during a hearing on her nomination.

In her opening statement, she said: “The pandemic did not create the inequities in our education system, but it has highlighted just how much work remains to be done…If confirmed, I would work to deliver on the hope and promise of public education in America. I would work to create the conditions in every single classroom where all children grow and learn to become actively literate, contributing, participating members of society.”

Marten would work alongside recently confirmed Secretary of Education Dr. Miguel Cardona. Her vast classroom, administrative, and personal experience would make her an asset to the department. TAKE ACTION

 


Cheers and Jeers

Sen. Tina Smith (D-MN) for lifting up the need to diversify the teaching profession, during the Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pension Committee’s hearing on Cindy Marten’s nomination to be Deputy Secretary of Education.

Reps. Betty McCollum (D-MN), Grace Meng (D-NY), Lucille Roybal-Allard (D-CA), and Brenda Lawrence (D-MI) for their joint statement highlighting COVID-19’s disproportionate impacts on women in America. The statement was signed by 32 Democratic women in the House.

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