EdAction in Congress

EdAction in Congress October 31, 2021

Updated Build Back Better framework unveiled

President Biden visited Capitol Hill on Oct. 28 and unveiled an updated framework aimed at uniting the Democratic caucus, introduced in Congress as the Build Back Better Act. The bill includes universal preschool for 3- and 4-year-olds; makes child care and college more affordable; expands access to free school meals; extends the tax credit that has cut child poverty in half; and provides additional resources for educator recruitment and retention, HBCUs and minority serving institutions, and the E-Rate program to keep students connected digitally at home. It also makes the single largest investment in affordable housing in U.S. history, extends Medicaid coverage to an additional 4 million people, expands Medicare to cover hearing expenses, and proposes a $100 million investment in immigration reform to make the system more just and humane. All of this will be paid for by ensuring big corporations and millionaires and billionaires pay a fairer share of taxes.

Overall, the Build Back Better Act is the biggest investment in the American people, the backbone of our nation’s infrastructure, since the 1960s—a once-in-a-generation opportunity to make a real difference in the daily lives of students, educators, and families. What’s next? House and Senate Democrats are rushing to finalize the bill and nail down a final agreement for passage. NEA President Becky Pringle called on Congress to pass the bill swiftly. The bill could be voted on as early as this week. TAKE ACTION 

Support the Public Service Freedom to Negotiate Act

“Today I joined my union family to help @RepCartwright introduce the Public Service Freedom to Negotiate Act,” NEA Vice President Princess Moss tweeted on Oct. 26. “There’s no basic federal standard to allow workers to join a union. That needs to change. Take action and join our call.”

The Public Service Freedom to Negotiate Act (H.R. 5727) would ensure that public service workers can join together in a union that they select; bargain over wages, hours, and terms and conditions of employment; access dispute resolution mechanisms; and exercise other key rights that come with having a voice on the job. Being able to negotiate with their employers will help public service workers raise their families’ standard of living, advocate for the work they do, and give educators a voice to advocate for what their students need.

The COVID-19 pandemic has underscored the vital contributions of the public service workers who help make our communities safe and livable: educators, nurses, EMS personnel, custodians, firefighters, child-care providers, transit operators, social workers, and much more. Over and over again, we’ve seen them go beyond their job descriptions, putting themselves at risk to take care of the most vulnerable among us. Yet in many places, they do not have a say in their working conditions or the jobs they do. Public service workers deserve better. TAKE ACTION

Social Security 2100 Act expands benefits and repeals penalties

The newly introduced Social Security 2100 Act: A Sacred Trust (S. 3071/H.R.5723) increases benefits across the board, improves the cost-of-living adjustment (COLA) and benefits for widows and widowers from two-income households, and raises the cap on payroll taxes to earnings of $400,000 per year. It also repeals the Windfall Elimination Provision (WEP) and Government Pension Offset (GPO) that unfairly deprive more than 2.5 million people dedicated to public service, including many educators, of Social Security benefits they have earned.

The WEP reduces the Social Security benefits of people who work in jobs covered by Social Security and jobs NOT covered by Social Security over the course of their careers—for example, educators compelled to take part-time or summer jobs to make ends meet. The GPO reduces the Social Security spousal or survivor benefits of people who get a government pension (federal, state or local) but did NOT pay Social Security taxes themselves. Two bills now before Congress would fully repeal both the GPO and WEP: the Social Security 2100 Act and the Social Security Fairness Act (S. 1302/H.R. 82). TAKE ACTION

Cheers and Jeers

Sen. Cory Booker (D-NJ) and Rep. Jim McGovern (D-MA) are introducing legislation calling on the White House to convene a White House national conference on food, nutrition, hunger, and health.

Reps. Mondaire Jones (D-NY) and Josh Gottheimer (D-NJ) led more than 40 Democratic House members in a letter urging House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) to include child nutrition priorities in the Build Back Better Act, including free school meals for all children who need them.

Sen. Richard Blumenthal (D-CT) and Rep. John Larson (D-CT) introduced the Social Security 2100 Act: A Sacred Trust (S. 3071/H.R. 5723), which would fully repeal both the GPO and WEP, expand and strengthen benefits, and ensure that wealthier Americans pay their fair share.

Sens. Brian Schatz (D-HI) and Tammy Duckworth (D-IL) introduced the Safeguarding American Families and Expanding Social Security Act (S. 3070), which would phase out the payroll tax cap and adjust benefit calculations to increase monthly benefits by $115 on average.

Rep. Pete Aguilar (D-CA) introduced the Protecting Students’ Civil Rights Act (H.R. 5685) to address racial inequity in U.S. colleges and universities. The bill would require institutions of higher education to designate at least one employee to coordinate compliance with Title VI of the Civil Rights Act of 1964.

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