Biden’s plan to build back better clears key hurdle
In a major victory for the Biden administration, the Senate voted 67-32 to take up a bipartisan bill providing $1 trillion for roads, bridges, rail, transit, water and other physical infrastructure programs. The biggest federal public works bill in more than a decade, it includes an extension of the Secure Rural Schools program, lead pipe removal, and electrified school buses—all priorities for our members and students.
But the vote to advance the public works bill is just the start of what promises to be a months-long slog. The actual legislation still needs to be written and voted upon in both the Senate and the House.
Next up is a comprehensive budget resolution providing $3.5 trillion for human infrastructure programs, including education and health care, that can pass the Senate with a simple majority of 50 Democratic votes plus Vice President Harris. As it takes shape, we need to keep repeating this message: 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. TAKE ACTION
House votes for historic increase in education funding
The House paved the way to a historic investment in our nation’s students, educators and schools by passing H.R. 4502, which includes the FY2022 appropriations bill for Labor, Health and Human Services, Education, and Related Agencies. Overall, U.S. Department of Education funding would increase by 41 percent next year—the biggest percentage increase for any agency. 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. TAKE ACTION
Student loans saddle educators with lifetime of debt
A new NEA report, Student Loan Debt Among Educators: A National Crisis, shows that 45 percent of educators have taken out a student loan, with the average total amount standing at $55,800. Black educators took on significantly more debt than other racial and ethnic groups, with an average initial total of $68,300 compared to $54,300 for Whites and $56,400 for Hispanics. “The cost of college imposes a ‘teacher penalty’ on educators, saddling them with a lifetime of debt before they even enter the classroom,” said NEA President Becky Pringle. “This illuminating research highlights the urgent need for the Department of Education to immediately forgive all outstanding debt for educators with 10 or more years of experience as the Public Service Loan Forgiveness program was designed to do.”
Cheers and Jeers
House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer (D-MD) highlighted the major increase in funding for full-service community schools in remarks in a July 27 floor speech, noting that they “help the youngest Americans and their families access critical services all in one place. When children and their families have easy access to these resources, it means greater success for students throughout their later years in school, better preparing them for college and careers and helping us close the achievement gap.”
Rep. Glenn Grothman (R-WI) introduced an amendment to the appropriations bill to strike language allowing Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals recipients to work in Congress; the House rejected the amendment.