Democrats continue work on Build Back Better Act
Discussions between congressional leaders and the White House continue in an effort to advance the Build Back Better Act that is the heart of President Biden’s domestic agenda. With child care, education, health care and more, the final package has the opportunity to make a significant difference in the lives of students, educators, and families. Failure to act at this critical juncture—due to timidity or politically motivated delays—is not an acceptable option. Too much is at stake.
School modernization is among NEA’s top priorities for the bill. Public school facilities are the largest sector of public infrastructure spending—after roads and bridges—but we have allowed them to deteriorate. The 2021 State of Our Schools report found an $85 billion annual funding gap. Some public school facilities are so poorly equipped or in such poor condition—too hot, too cold, or infested with vermin—they undermine student learning.
Other NEA priorities include expanding access to free school meals, investing in educator recruitment and retention to help diversify the profession, providing pathways to citizenship for Dreamers and other undocumented immigrants, and ensuring sufficient revenue to make long-overdue investments in our communities. TAKE ACTION
Senate prepares to take up voting rights
The Senate is preparing to take up voting rights legislation this month. Voting represents our freedom to have a say in decisions that impact our lives, including how we provide high-quality schools for all students. But many states are enacting laws that make casting our votes and participating in our democracy more difficult. More than 400 bills introduced in 49 state legislatures seek to restrict voters’ access to the poll; they largely target voters of color, voters with disabilities, and low-income voters.
The John Lewis Voting Rights Advancement Act (H.R. 4), passed by the House in August, would restore the full protections of the 1965 Voting Rights Act, providing several tools to address discriminatory practices. It would also restore the requirement that states with a history of voter suppression and discrimination pre-clear changes to their voting laws with the federal government.
The Freedom to Vote Act (S. 2747) would, among other things, create national standards so we can safely and freely cast our votes. It would make Election Day a public holiday and ensure that every state offers same-day voter registration at all polling locations by 2024. TAKE ACTION
Cheers and Jeers
The bipartisan Consider Teachers Act (S. 848/H.R. 2048) has passed both chambers and is heading to President Biden to be signed into law to fix a broken system that converted many TEACH grants into loans, unfairly burdening teachers with debt. TEACH grants help students who serve four years as full-time teachers in high-need, often underserved communities.
Reps. Andy Kim (D-NJ) and Mike Kelly (R-PA) introduced the bipartisan Helping Students Plan for College Act (H.R. 5380) to address the practice known as scholarship displacement—reducing institutional financial aid when a student receives an outside scholarship.
Sen. Sherrod Brown (D-OH) introduced S. Res. 384 designating the week of Sept. 20 through 24 Community School Coordinators Appreciation Week.