EdAction in Congress

EdAction in Congress April 25, 2021

Chauvin’s conviction reinvigorates push for systemic change

Derek Chauvin’s conviction is raising hopes that George Floyd will be remembered not just for his tragic death, but for reinvigorating the fight for desperately needed systemic change. “While the jury reached the right decision and did in fact convict former Minneapolis police officer Derek Chauvin of George Floyd’s murder, we are again joining together to make sure all of us feel safe in our schools, neighborhoods and communities,” said NEA President Becky Pringle.

Going to school or returning home from an after-school job or visiting friends should not put students’ lives at risk. But sadly, in communities of color, this is the reality. A 2019 study published in a National Academy of Sciences journal found that 1 in every 1,000 Black men can expect to be killed by police.

The George Floyd Justice in Policing Act takes initial steps to end police brutality, protect civil rights and liberties, and change the culture of law enforcement agencies. These steps include ending racial and religious profiling and no-knock warrants, mandatory de-escalation training for police, prohibiting chokeholds and other potentially fatal maneuvers, and requiring police to use dashboard and body cameras. Justice for Black Lives, issued by NEA’s executive committee earlier this year, calls for many of the same steps. TAKE ACTION


Make the District of Columbia the 51st state

Taxation without representation was the rallying cry for the American Revolution, yet 245 years later it endures in our nation’s capital. On April 22, the House voted 216-208 to correct this historic injustice and make the District of Columbia the 51st state. The denial of full representation in Congress—and therefore, full citizenship—in a city nearly half Black is egregious given our nation’s history of suppressing the Black vote. No other democracy denies its citizens equal representation because of where they live.

Denying residents of our nation’s capital full representation in Congress is unjust as well as dangerous. With over 700,000 residents, the District of Columbia has a larger population than Vermont and Wyoming. District residents pay the highest per-capita federal income taxes in the nation and in total, pay more in taxes than residents of 21 other states. Violent marauders roamed the halls of Congress for hours on January 6, yet the District of Columbia could not deploy the National Guard because it is not a state.

The Washington, D.C. Admission Act (S. 51/H.R. 51) preserves the constitutionally required district that houses the federal government, our monuments, and the National Mall. The neighborhoods and commercial areas where the people of the District of Columbia live and raise their families would comprise the 51st state. TAKE ACTION


NEA members urge senators to support the Equality Act

Educators across the country shared their stories with members of Congress during a virtual lobbying day for the Equality Act, sponsored by the Human Rights Campaign. “We teach our students to treat each other how we want to be treated ourselves,” said NEA member Brian Kerekes, a high school math teacher from Florida. “Passage of the Equality Act puts that into practice. We are at our best when we respect, value and celebrate each other’s perspectives and what makes us unique.”

The Equality Act has already passed the House, and Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY) has promised his chamber will vote on it as well. 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 laws—most states 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 Equality Act would help cultivate nurturing and supportive school environments for LGBTQ students while safeguarding LGBTQ educators, often key sources of support and encouragement for LGBTQ students. TAKE ACTION


Cheers and Jeers

Sen. Richard Blumenthal (D-CT) and Rep. Joaquin Castro (D-TX) introduced the Families Belong Together Act to provide a path to citizenship for children and families forcibly separated at the U.S. border.

Sens. Brian Schatz (D-HI) and Lisa Murkowski (R-AK) reintroduced legislation (S. 1267) to extend two key statutory deadlines for the 2020 Census to help ensure an accurate count of the population, especially in Native, minority, and rural communities.

Sens. Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY) and Lisa Murkowski (R-AK) introduced the Summer Meals Act of 2021 (S. 1170) to ensure children maintain access to school meals when school is out.

Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack approved the extension of pandemic waivers and flexibilities through June 2022 to allow schools to continue serving free, healthy meals to all students.

Sen. Lisa Murkowski (R-AK) joined Democrats in voting to confirm Vanita Gupta’s nomination as Associate Attorney General heading the Civil Rights division at the Department of Justice.

Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-VT) and Rep. Pramila Jayapal (D-WA) reintroduced the College for All Act (S. 1188) to make college tuition-free and debt-free for working families.

Sens. Sherrod Brown (D-MA) and Susan Collins (R-ME) reintroduced the Social Security Fairness Act (S. 1302), which would fully repeal the Government Pension Offset (GPO) and Windfall Elimination Provision (WEP) that deprive 2.5 million educators and other dedicated public servants of Social Security benefits they have earned.

The Senate voted 94-1 to pass the COVID-19 Hate Crimes Act (S. 937). ”The overwhelming bipartisan support to address hate crimes targeting Asian-Americans is proof that when we come together across race and place, we can make our country safer for all of us,” said NEA President Becky Pringle.

Josh Hawley (R-MO) was the only senator to oppose the COVID-19 Hate Crimes Act (S. 937).

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