EdAction in Congress

EdAction in Congress June 13, 2021

Senate to vote soon on For the People Act

(Photo by Alexandra Buxbaum/Sipa USA)(Sipa via AP Images)

Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY) is planning to bring the For the People Act (S. 1) to the floor later this month despite recent developments that make the already steep path to passage even steeper. Sen. Joe Manchin (D-WV), the only Democrat who is not a cosponsor of S. 1, says he will vote against the bill because it does not have bipartisan support. Manchin supports the narrower John Lewis Voting Rights Advancement Act (VRAA), which is not expected to be introduced until this fall. Sen. Lisa Murkowski (R-AK) supported the VRAA last Congress but Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) opposes it.

In any case, the VRAA would not prevent the nearly 400 voter suppression bills that have been introduced in state legislatures from drastically changing the voting landscape across America.

The For the People Act rests on three pillars: reaffirming and expanding voting rights, strengthening oversight to end big money in politics, and ensuring an ethical government. It would, among other things, institute automatic voter registration, place new limits on partisan practices like gerrymandering, and require candidates for president and vice president to release their tax returns for the previous 10 years. The need for action is clear: More than 360 bills introduced in 47 state legislatures include provisions to make voting more difficult—for example, by shortening the time for absentee and early voting, requiring voters show an ID at the polls, purging voter rolls, and seizing control of local election boards. TAKE ACTION

Stop anti-labor policies in Department of Defense schools

Two years ago, the Department of Defense Education Activity (DoDEA)—the school system for the children of our military personnel—began requiring stateside educators represented by the Federal Education Association, an NEA affiliate, to devote 24 additional, unpaid hours per quarter to busy work that hinders their ability to prepare for instruction and attend to students.

On average, teachers already spend 17-plus hours per week outside the duty day preparing for instruction and grading assignments. In January 2020, an impartial arbitrator found DoDEA acted illegally by unilaterally implementing the additional uncompensated hours. However, DoDEA, which implemented the requirement under the guise of “professional development,” has refused to comply with the arbitrator’s ruling. Instead, DoDEA has delayed implementation by appealing the decision to the Federal Labor Relations Authority.

Recently, DoDEA announced that in its Southeast District, the unfunded additional hours will extend the duty day by an hour twice a week. This will create additional hardships for educators who already lack time to complete their duties without sacrificing time with their own children, forgoing medical appointments, and abandoning personal commitments. Many of these educators are military spouses as well as veterans who have already sacrificed much and not be expected to further upend their private lives. They are exhausted from trying to balance their personal and workplace obligations, arrange for before- and after-care for their children, adult daycare for parents, and are stressed to the point of breaking—all of which is massively detrimental to their students’ learning and extracurricular environments. TAKE ACTION

June 14-19 is immigration week of action

June is Immigrant Heritage Month and education, immigration, and other organizations are coming together June 14-19 for a kids, youth, and educator week of action. The event coincides with the ninth anniversary of Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) and the first anniversary of the Supreme Court’s decision to uphold DACA.

The week of action will include a video premiere by the Children Thrive Action Network, a day of action on the “DACA-versary” by United We Dream, and social media advocacy on June 16, the educators day of action. The NEA Conference on Racial & Social Justice and NEA Aspiring Educators Conference will be highlighted. In addition, NEA is leading a letter urging President Biden, Vice President Harris, and Congressional leadership to include in any legislation that moves forward via budget reconciliation permanent protections and pathways to citizenship for the undocumented immigrants, and their families, who contribute to this country in myriad ways. TAKE ACTION

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