Voting rights is most significant test of our democracy since the Civil War
“Bullies and merchants of fear and peddlers of lies are threatening the very foundation of our country,” President Biden said in an impassioned defense of voting rights at the National Constitution Center in Philadelphia on July 13. “We are facing the most significant test of our democracy since the Civil War. That’s not hyperbole. Since the Civil War. The Confederates back then never breached the Capitol as insurrectionists did on January the 6th.” Biden urged the Senate to pass the For the People Act (S. 1) before the August recess.
Fifty years ago, young activists—including members of Student NEA (now NEA’s Aspiring Educators)—launched Project 18, the national campaign to lower the voting age from 21 to 18 that culminated in passage of the 26th amendment to the Constitution. Once again, educators are part of a national movement to ensure access to the ballot box—this time, by passing the For the People Act, the most comprehensive democracy reform bill in decades.
Voting rights activist Stacey Abrams addressed delegates to NEA’s Representative Assembly virtually on July 2. “This summer, we need every single member of the NEA, every educator who believes that the right to vote should be sacred, we need you to stay on top of this. Reaching out to all of your legislators, especially your U.S. senators, and it doesn’t matter whether you voted for them or not. They work for you now,” she said. TAKE ACTION
Biden’s plan to build back better advances in Congress
This summer and early fall, Congress will be working to pass important elements of President Biden’s plan to build back better. The legislation can—and should—include NEA priorities such as modernizing school facilities, making education more affordable, providing free school meals for all students, enhancing worker and family protections, and fair taxation that invests in America. The legislation is expected to advance simultaneously on two tracks: a nearly $1 trillion bill that could attract the 60 votes necessary to defeat a filibuster and a $3.5 billion bill that could clear the Senate with a simple majority of 51 votes using the budget reconciliation process. TAKE ACTION
House committee backs historic increase in education funding
On July 15, the House Appropriations Committee approved an historic investment in our nation’s students, educators and schools. Overall, U.S. Department of Education funding would increase by 41 percent next year. Key elements of the bill include a $19.5 billion increase for Title I programs, a $400 increase in the maximum Pell Grant, a $3.1 billion boost for special education, and $443 million for full-service community schools—far above the $30 million provided this year. The bill is expected to go to the floor in late July. TAKE ACTION
Cheers and Jeers
Reps. Ruben Gallego (D-AZ), Jahana Hayes (D-CT), Alma Adams (D-NC), and Chrissy Houlahan (D-PA) led a Dear Colleague letter calling for investment in—and diversification of—the educator workforce.
Sens. Tim Kaine (D-VA) and Susan Collins (R-ME) reintroduced the Preparing and Retaining Education Professionals (PREP) Act (S. 2244) to address teacher and principal shortages, particularly in rural communities, and increase teacher diversity.
Sen. Chris Murphy (D-CT) defended transgender students at a July 15 hearing on the nomination of Catherine Lhamon for Assistant Secretary of Civil Rights in the Department of Education. The goal of GOP attacks on transgender students isn’t to protect women’s sports, but to “marginalize these kids, make people fear them, and make people see them as a threat,” Murphy said.
Sen. Tommy Tuberville (R-AL) denigrated transgender students at a July 15 hearing on the nomination of Catherine Lhamon for Assistant Secretary of Civil Rights in the Department of Education. “I fought like heck for years for young girls, and I hate to see us ruin that,” he said, then asked Lhamon whether putting “biological men” on women’s sports teams is discrimination.