March 25, 2018
Congress finally passes
funding bill: many
education wins, but
Dreamers remain in limbo
After years of austerity, Congress passed an FY2018 budget bill that includes long overdue increases in education funding, especially for programs serving the students most in need like Title I, IDEA, 21st Century Community Learning Centers, Career and Technical Education (CTE), and Impact Aid. Pell grants and the Public Service Loan Forgiveness (PSLF) program, both of which help make college affordable, got a much-needed boost. The Secure Rural Schools (SRS) program, which expired two years ago, was reauthorized.
The budget bill also strengthens the National Instant Criminal Background Check System (NICS), finally allows the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention to conduct research on gun violence prevention, and prohibits using federal funds earmarked for school safety programs to buy firearms or train educators to use them. These steps are welcome and a good start. But they fall far short of what is needed – for example, 97 percent of Americans support universal background checks, according to the latest Quinnipiac poll.
“Overall, the bill is a step in the right direction, particularly its focus on investments in education,” said NEA presidentLily Eskelsen García.
Congress rejected education secretary Betsy DeVos’ request to eliminate important programs like Title II, which provides professional development for educators and helps reduce class size. It also rejected the worst of the Trump administration’s requests on immigration: building a concrete wall on our southern border, defunding sanctuary cities, and hiring more deportation agents. However, the budget bill does not include a permanent solution for Dreamers or Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) recipients.
Educators talk to Congress
about gun violence
Educators and members of Congress continue to meet and explore ways to end the epidemic of gun violence plaguing our nation. On March 20, FEA member Stacey Lippel, a language arts teacher at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Fla., gave Democrats on the House Education and the Workforce Committee a stirring, firsthand account of the Valentine’s Day massacre that claimed the lives of 17 students and educators in her school. “I have 219 students on my current roster,” she said. “Since Feb. 14, an average of 10 percent of my students are absent because they aren’t coping well with their experiences. They don’t feel safe in school.”
NEA vice president Becky Pringle was one of seven gun violence prevention advocates who spoke with Senate Democrats during their steering committee meeting on March 21 – the only educator in the group. She stressed educators’ strong opposition to being armed and having more guns in schools, called for common-sense measures to prevent gun violence like universal background checks, and urged Congress not to allow school safety measures to become an excuse for returning to zero-tolerance policies that harm students of color and those with disabilities.
Students, parents, and educators all across America joined the worldwide March 24 March for Our Lives, which was organized by students and included more than 800 events in our nation’s capital and other venues. NEA opened its Washington, DC headquarters to participants.
April 20, 2018 – the 19th anniversary of the Columbine massacre – will be a national day of action against gun violence. For information on events in your area, go to http://protectourschoolscom. And click on the take action button to urge members of Congress to take common-sense steps to prevent gun violence – now!
Tell Congress not to cut or
change the Supplemental
House and Senate committees are preparing to take up the Farm Bill that provides funding for the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), our nation’s largest anti-hunger program. Beneficiaries include 1 in 5 U.S. children. Formerly known as food stamps, SNAP faces threats of significant cuts and additional work requirements for adult recipients. Click on the take action button and tell Congress not to cut or change this vitally important program.
Cheers and Jeers
Representatives Ryan Costello (R-PA) and Brendan Boyle (D-PA) and Sens. Sheldon Whitehouse (D-RI), Tim Kaine (D-VA), Elizabeth Warren (D-MA) and Bernie Sanders (I-VT) for their successful efforts to expand the Public Service Loan Forgiveness (PSLF) program to protect additional borrowers as part of the budget bill
Representative Tom Cole (R-OK) for supporting Impact Aid and criticizing cuts proposed by education secretary Betsy DeVos at a hearing this week
Representative Rosa DeLauro (D-CT) for challenging Betsy DeVos for her lack of support for public education and supporting the idea of arming educators
Representative Nita Lowey (D-NY) for chiding Betsy DeVos for her failure to support IDEA
Representative Barbara Lee (D-CA) for objecting to Betsy DeVos’ plan to rescind discipline guidance and failure to acknowledge the reality of disproportionate discipline rates for students of color
Representative Katherine Clark (D-MA) for addressing disproportionate school discipline, private school vouchers, and civil rights protections at the DeVos hearing
Representative Marc Pocan (D-WI) for urging Betsy DeVos to look at all schools, not just those in the charter/voucher space; why some schools are not succeeding; and ways to help schools improve
Representative Bobby Scott (D-VA) for organizing the March 20 forum, “Preventing School Shootings: A Comprehensive Approach,” and members of Congress who participated in the event: Representatives Susan Davis (D-CA), Raúl Grijalva (D-AZ), Jared Polis (D-CO), Mark Takano (D-CA), Gregorio Sablan (D-MP), Elizabeth Esty (D-CT), Ted Deutch (D-FL), Carol Shea-Porter (D-NH), Mark DeSaulnier (D-CA), Barbara Lee (D-CA), Nancy Pelosi (D-CA), Lisa Blunt Rochester (D-DE), Donald Norcross (D-NJ), Brenda Lawrence (D-MI), and Frederica Wilson (D-FL)
Representative Jared Polis (D-CO) and Senator Tammy Baldwin (D-WI) for introducing the Student Non-Discrimination Act (H.R. 5374/S. 2584)
Education secretary Betsy DeVos for her testimony and policy views on multiple issues at a House appropriations subcommittee hearing this week – gun violence prevention, federal civil rights laws, racial bias and discrimination, and federal funding for education.
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