EdAction in Congress

EdAction in Congress May 9, 2021

President Biden and Vice President Harris have advocated for students and educators since day one.

We all want our students—Black and white, Native and newcomer, Hispanic and Asian alike—to attend safe and just public schools and higher education campuses that help them pursue their dreams and fulfill their true potential. Due to the activism of educators around the country, in the first 100 days of the Biden administration, we have seen historic investments in students and public schools along with action to make America stronger, safer, and healthier for all. President Biden and Vice President Kamala Harris have improved the lives of our students and families. And the work is just beginning. Read more.

For the People Act gives power to the people

The For the People Act (S.1), our nation’s first comprehensive democracy reform bill in decades, is expected to receive its first vote by a Senate committee this week. The House in March passed the companion bill (H.R. 1). Both take several steps to protect and expand voting rights, strengthen oversight of voting, and ensure ethical government.

More than 360 bills have been introduced in 47 states that would making voting more difficult. They include measures that would shorten the time for absentee and/or early voting, require voters show an ID at the polls, and purge voter rolls. Georgia’s legislature, for instance, passed a law making it a crime to give water or food to voters, who must often wait in long lines, within 150 feet of a polling place or within 25 feet of any voter in line.

The For the People Act would automatically register voters across America and restore voting rights to those who have completed felony sentences, among other steps. It would modernize our voting system, expose dark money in politics, and require presidential candidates to disclose their tax returns. Take Action.


NEA members speak out on loan forgiveness and COVID 19’s impact on students with disabilities

NEA members met with Secretary of Education Miguel Cardona on the Public Service Loan Forgiveness (PSLF) program and testified before a House subcommittee about COVID-19’s impact on students with disabilities last week.

On May 7, Sean Manes, a New Jersey elementary music teacher, and James Stewart, a Maryland high school science teacher, participated in a roundtable with Cardona to share their experiences with the PSLF program.

Manes became eligible for PSLF in 2019, but didn’t receive it until 2020. His loan servicer was missing nearly four years of qualifying payments. NEA’s Office of General Counsel assisted Manes in successfully arguing that he had actually exceeded the requirement for loan payments. He received loan forgiveness and was refunded the extra payments.

Stewart already had a master’s degree in science and a teaching certificate, but wanted to continue his education to be the best teacher possible, and to set an example for his students. He borrowed $90,000 to finance a doctoral degree and today, his debt is in the six figures. Although he doesn’t regret his career or educational choices, he wishes he’d had a better understanding of the loans before he took them on.

Danielle M. Kovach, a third-grade self-contained learning and language disabilities from New Jersey, testified (virtually) on May 6 before the House Early Childhood, Elementary, and Secondary Education Subcommittee. Kovach described the challenges of the abrupt switch to virtual learning and her concerns about the long-term implications of the pandemic on her student. She thanked Congress for the COVID-relief packages that have helped schools and students weather the pandemic and asked that Congress fulfill its commitment to fund the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) at 40 percent of the excess cost. Take Action.


Cheers

Sens. Cory Booker (D-NJ) and John Cornyn (R-TX) introduced the Food and Nutrition Education in Schools Act, which would provide federal funding for projects that educate students about healthy food practices.

Sens. Sherrod Brown (D-OH) and Susan Collins (R-ME) and Reps. Sam Graves (R-MO) and Emanuel Cleaver (D-MO) introduced, respectively, Senate Resolution 198 and House Resolution 362 honoring Teacher Appreciation Week 2021.

Reps. Jamaal Bowman (D-NY) and Marc Pocan (D-WI) led a letter to the House Appropriations Committee calling for a reduction of funding for the federal Charter Schools Program and increased oversight and accountability for the program.

Sens. Tim Kaine (D-VA) and Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY) and Rep. John P. Sarbanes (D-MD) led a letter to Secretary of Education Miguel Cardona urging him to use administrative flexibilities granted during national emergencies to fix the Public Service Loan Forgiveness (PSLF) program.

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