‘Build back better’ includes public schools and campuses
President Biden’s American Jobs Plan, unveiled March 31, includes modernizing public schools and investing in the community college infrastructure. Current conditions can be hazardous to the health of students and educators alike: Half our schools are more than 50 years old, and were built when windowless classrooms, asbestos, and lead pipes were commonplace. “By investing in public schools—the beating heart of every community—President Biden’s bold plan will power America’s economic recovery and pay dividends down the road. Congress must come together to build this better path forward that creates good jobs, invests in communities and makes America more competitive,” said NEA President Becky Pringle.
Cancel the student loan debt of teachers with 10 years of public service
NEA is urging Education Secretary Miguel Cardona to cancel the student loan debt of qualified public sector workers on the frontlines of our response to COVID-19—teachers, nurses, and other essential workers serving communities all across America.
Created in 2007, the Public Service Loan Forgiveness (PSLF) was designed to encourage college graduates to pursue careers in education, health care, firefighting, and other forms of public service. The program promised to wipe away federal student debt after 120 qualifying monthly payments—10 years’ worth of payments.
Instead, under the failed leadership of Betsy DeVos, the Department of Education rejected 98 percent of the PSLF applications filed since 2017, when the first public sector workers became eligible for relief. And that’s just the tip of the iceberg—for every qualified borrower whose application has been rejected, tens of thousands more have been knocked off course or never sought relief.
Fully fund programs for low-income students and students with disabilities
The Keep Our Pact Act (S. 72/H.R. 764) would create a mandatory 10-year path to fully funding both Title I of the Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA) and the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA)—critical programs for the students most in need. Title I programs for low-income students and schools were shortchanged by nearly $30 billion in the 2019-20 school year. Congress promised to pay 40 percent of the excess costs of special education services when IDEA was first passed, but has never come close—the federal share is now less than 14 percent.
The COVID-19 pandemic has intensified the unfortunate consequences of these funding gaps, draining resources from cash-strapped schools and reducing access to support programs. Students from low-income households ill-equipped for remote learning have been hit especially hard, as have students with disabilities who need extra support. Now is the time to fulfill America’s promise of equal opportunity for all our students. TAKE ACTION
Cheers and Jeers
Sens. Mike Crapo (R-ID) and Ron Wyden (D-OR) and Reps. Joe Neguse (D-CO) and Cathy McMorris Rodgers (R-WA) introduced the Secure Rural Schools Reauthorization Act (S. 435/H.R. 2099) to help fund public education and community services in 770 rural counties located near national forests.
Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-VT) introduced the For the 99.5% Act, which would make the estate tax more progressive and raise $430 billion in revenue.
Rep. Richie Neal (D-MA), chair of the House Ways and Means Committee for reintroducing the Public Servants Protection and Fairness Act of 2021, to fix the Windfall Elimination Provision (WEP) for future retirees and provide meaningful relief to current WEP retirees.