Educators share 6 ways the Build Back Better Act can support students, schools
You’re expecting a new addition to your family and just learned that although you’ve been teaching in your school district for years, you get absolutely no paid family leave to bond with your baby.
None. Zero. Zilch.
Maybe you’ve already had a child and are crunching the numbers on how much your son or daughter’s daycare is going to cost — and you realize it’s more than your mortgage. You wonder whether your family can afford the extra expense for the next five years until your child will be eligible for kindergarten.
Or perhaps it’s December and your school district is still hiring classroom teachers, school bus drivers, custodians, and teachers’ aides. It’s still looking for substitute teachers, too, and because they can’t find anyone, you’ll need to give up your planning period and work through lunch to cover for a sick colleague. You’re feeling firsthand the negative ripple effect of the staffing shortages, and they’re reverberating throughout the school community.
Does any of this sound familiar?
The good news is President Biden’s Build Back Better Act addresses these issues, and potential relief is in sight.
The Build Back Better Act, passed by the U.S. House of Representatives last month, is the largest investment in families and workers in more than a generation—and it’s all paid for by making the uber-rich and corporations pay their fair share.
The bill is now up for a vote in the Senate. If Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY) gets his way, that vote will take place before Christmas. Then, the House must vote again on the Senate version of the bill. The final step is sending the bill to President Biden to sign into law. READ MORE TAKE ACTION
Democrats vow to fight for voting rights
Despite stonewalling by the GOP, Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY) is continuing the push for federal legislation to preserve and protect voting rights, the foundation of our democracy. The Freedom to Vote Act (S. 2747) would create minimum standards for voting access across the nation while the John Lewis Voting Rights Advancement Act (H.R. 4) would restore the safeguards of the Voting Rights Act of 1965.
“Sadly, our Republican colleagues have blocked Senate consideration of these bills at every turn, preventing the world’s greatest deliberative body from even having a simple debate about the merits of these critical measures,” Schumer said in a Dear Colleague letter. “Even if it means going at it alone, we will continue to fight for voting rights and work to find an alternative path forward to defend the most fundamental liberty we have as citizens.”
Nineteen states have enacted 33 laws that make it harder to vote, according to the Brennan Center for Justice. These laws employ tactics such as shortening the time for mail-in ballots, imposing harsh voter ID requirements, and limiting the availability, number, and location of ballot drop boxes. Please reach out to your senators and let them know this legislation is imperative to preserve our democracy. TAKE ACTION
NEA President Pringle helps launch Equity or Else campaign
NEA President Becky Pringle participated in a Dec. 7 event at the National Press Club launching the grassroots Equity or Else campaign advocating for FY2022 education funding levels proposed by President Biden and approved by the House. Overall, the proposed appropriations bill for the U.S. Department of Education would increase funding by 41 percent next year—the largest percentage increase for any agency. Key elements of the House-passed bill include a $19.5 billion increase for Title I programs and $443 million for full-service community schools—far above the $30 million provided this year.
“Every student—every one—deserves the access, opportunity, and resources that will help them live into their magnificent brilliance,” Pringle said. “During a tour that I am calling Joy, Justice, and Excellence, I have met face to face with educators all across our nation. I’ve also seen firsthand the power and the possibility of community schools. These bright islands of excellence show that when students, educators, families, and community organizations work together—when we all collaborate and partner together—our students reap the benefits.”
NEA’s partners, Journey for Justice (J4J) and the Alliance to Reclaim Our Schools (AROS), sponsored the event. Other participants included Sen. Chris Van Hollen (D-MD), Rep. Jamaal Bowman (D-NY), Rep. Chuy Garcia (D-IL), and AFT President Randi Weingarten.
Senate confirms Rosenworcel as FCC chair
The Senate confirmed Jessica Rosenworcel as the first female permanent chair of the Federal Communications Commission by a vote of 68-31. She has nearly a decade of experience as an FCC commissioner, including nine months as acting chair.
Rosenworcel’s confirmation will help continue the progress already made in ensuring all students have access to online learning. During the COVID-19 pandemic, she supported creation of the E-Rate Emergency Connectivity Fund to help beat the digital divide and the specific aspect of it known as the homework gap—the inability to do schoolwork at home due to lack of internet access or devices.
“Any educator can recall instances when their students were forced to do their schoolwork outside fast-food restaurants, sat in school parking lots to log onto the school’s WiFi, or lingered in community centers so they could get online because broadband access at home wasn’t an option,” said NEA President Becky Pringle. “Accessing the internet is a major part of equity and opportunity in education. It is critical for conducting research, doing homework, and attending class.”
Cheers and Jeers
Reps. Mike Levin (D-CA), Cathy McMorris Rodgers (R-WA), Sanford Bishop (D-GA), and Richard Hudson (R-NC) introduced the Military Dependents School Meal Eligibility Act (H.R. 6227) to make it easier for military families to qualify for school meal programs.
Sens. Ron Wyden (D-OR) and Raphael Warnock (D-GA) led a sign-on letter urging President Biden to waive interest on federal student loans for the duration of the public health emergency caused by the COVID-19 pandemic.
Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY), Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-MA), and Rep. Ayana Pressley (D-MA) sent a letter urging President Biden to extend the pause in student loan payments and cancel student debt.