June 10, 2016
June 24, 2016
Educators raise concerns on ESSA regulations; speak up!
At the House Education and the Workforce Committee’s June 23 hearing on implementing the Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA), NEA member Cassie Harrelson, a math teacher in Colorado, testified that the U.S. Department of Education’s proposed accountability regulations undermine “the flexibility and the promise of ESSA” and “take away my voice” in decision-making to improve education for students most in need.
“[O]nce again in the proposed regulations, we see a return to increasing the focus on standardized tests,” she said. “By diminishing the importance and the lack of decision options of some of the indicators, including the student or school supports indicator, we will return to a system where we are overly focused on the numbers game of tests instead on focusing on what students need to succeed.”
The proposed regulations require states to assign each school “a comprehensive, summative rating”—in other words, a single grade like A through F. They also say that “robust action”—read: punitive action—must be taken against schools that don’t test 95 percent of their students, despite the law stating that is up to states to determine. Unless changes are made, the regulations could restore No Child Left Behind’s damaging practice of labeling schools and undermine the use of multiple measures or indicators to tell the full story of students and school progress.
How educators react to the proposed regulations is of paramount importance—now is the time to speak up! The comment period began May 31 and closes August 1. Check out the proposed regulations, and then click on the button and submit your comments.
And for all the latest and greatest info and resources on ESSA implementation go to NEA’s new site: getessaright.org
Tell Congress: Pass common-sense gun reforms to make children and communities safer
In an extraordinary turn of events, Democrats seized control of the House floor shortly before noon on Wednesday and proceeded to stage a 25-hour sit-in to dramatize the need for a vote on common-sense measures to prevent gun violence. Civil Rights icon Representative John Lewis (D-GA) led the effort and summed up the all-too-frequent moments of silence by Congress in the face of continued American deaths from gun violence: “We cannot continue to stick our heads in the sand and ignore the reality of mass gun violence in our nation. We must remove the blinders. The time for silence and patience is long gone,” Lewis said. The sit-in prompted House Republicans to adjourn the chamber earlier than planned for the upcoming July 4 recess.
“Enough is enough,” said NEA president Lily Eskelsen García. “We have grieved too long and too often—for the students killed, for their families, and for the heroic educators. The time is now for Congress to act and allow a vote on measures to prevent more tragedies in our schools and communities.”
Earlier in the week, by a vote of 47 to 53, the Senate defeated the NEA-supported amendment to the Justice Department funding bill that would have closed the loophole that allows suspected terrorists on the “no fly” list to purchase firearms, including assault weapons like the one used in the Orlando massacre. By a vote of 44 t0 56, the Senate also defeated the NEA-supported amendment that would have expanded and strengthened the existing background check system.
Nearly 10,000 responded to last week’s call to action. Keep the pressure on! Click on the button and tell your members of Congress to support common-sense reforms to help keep students and communities safe.
Tell the Senate to do its job and act on Supreme Court nominee
Friday, June 24 marked an unfortunate milestone: 100 days since President Obama nominated Merrick Garland, chief judge of the D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals, to serve on the Supreme Court and the GOP’s refusal even to consider him. The Supreme Court addresses nearly every issue that matters to educators, including two rulings this past Thursday on immigration and access to education. The Senate’s inaction is charting the wrong course for our country, demonstrated by Thursday’s decision on immigration (U.S. v. Texas) – a 4-4 stalemate leaving in place a bad lower court ruling that harms countless students and aspiring American families.
Educators have sent nearly 55,000 messages urging Senate Republicans to hold a hearing and an up-or-down vote on Judge Garland. Click on the button and add your voice in telling the Senate to do its job—100 days of inaction is unacceptable.
Cheers and Jeers
Representatives John Lewis (GA), John Larson (CT), Katherine Clark (MA), Robin Kelly (IL), and David Cicilline (RI) for organizing and leading the Democratic sit-in on the House floor demanding a vote on gun violence bills
Senator Diane Feinstein (D-CA) for offering the amendment that would close the loophole that allows suspected terrorists to buy firearms
Senators Chris Murphy (D-CT), Cory Booker (D-NJ), and Chuck Schumer (D-NY) for offering the amendment that would expand and strengthen the existing background check system
Senator Mark Kirk (R-IL) for crossing party lines and voting for both the Murphy/Booker/Schumer and Feinstein amendments and Senator Kelly Ayotte (R-NH) for crossing party lines and voting for the Feinstein amendment
Senator Sherrod Brown (D-OH) for asking the U.S. Department of Education to investigate recipients of federal charter school grants after the Ohio auditor and the Ohio Charter School Accountability Project reported attendance rates of less than 50 percent at some Ohio charter schools, along with misuse of grant funds.
Senator Heidi Heitkamp (D-ND) for voting against both the Murphy/Booker/Schumer and Feinstein amendments and Senators Joe Manchin (D-WV) and Jon Tester (D-MT) for voting against the Murphy/Booker/Schumer amendment.
June 17, 2016
Senate to vote on common-sense gun reforms – speak up!
In the wake of the tragic massacre in Orlando and the ongoing gun violence epidemic plaguing our nation, the Senate is expected to vote Monday, June 20th on NEA-supported common-sense steps to help make our communities safer. Those votes follow a 15-hour filibuster led by Senator Murphy (D-CT) demanding action. One amendment (to the Justice Department funding bill), from Senator Feinstein (D-CA), would close the “terror gap” that allows people on the federal “no fly” list because of suspected terrorist ties to still be able to purchase firearms. The second amendment, from Sens. Murphy, Booker (D-NJ), Schumer (D-NY) and Cardin (D-MD), would close the gun show loophole and require background checks for all gun purchases. House Democrats are also seeking votes before Congress breaks for its summer recess in a few weeks.
U.S. Government Accountability Office (GAO) data underscore how easy it is for potential terrorists and other dangerous people to buy weapons of war, no questions asked. Individuals on the consolidated terrorist watch list cleared a background check in 94 percent of attempted transactions in 2013 and 2014 (455 out of 486 times), and in 91 percent of attempted transactions between February 2004 and December 2014 (2,043 of 2,233 times).
Click on the button and tell your members of Congress to support common-sense reforms to help make our children and communities safer.
House to soon take up education funding bill
The House Appropriations Committee is expected to soon vote on the FY2017 funding bill for Labor, Health and Education, with a subcommittee vote possible this coming week. As states and school districts begin implementing the Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA), it is essential to increase funding for programs that lift up our children most in need, including Title I, IDEA, and early education. Click on the button to tell Congress why we need to make a greater investment our students.
Cheers and Jeers
Senators Chris Murphy (D-CT), Cory Booker (D-NJ), Richard Blumenthal (D-CT) for leading the 15-hour talking filibuster to force votes on gun violence. They were joined by Sens. Durbin (D-IL), Manchin (D-WV), Nelson (D-FL), Cardin (D-MD), Markey (D-MA), Leahy (D-VT), Toomey (R-PA), Franken (D-MN), Murray (D-WA), Peters (D-MI), Casey (D-PA), Wyden (D-OR), Sasse (R-NE), Warren (D-MA), Merkley (D-OR), Menendez (D-NJ), Schumer (D-NY), Mikulski (D-MD), Shaheen (D-NH), Warner (D-VA), Gillibrand (D-NY), McCaskill (D-MO), Klobuchar (D-MN), Brown (D-OH), Stabenow (D-MI), Carper (D-DE), Baldwin (D-WI), Udall (D-NM), Bennet (D-CO), Hirono (D-HI), Heinrich (D-NM), Whitehouse (D-RI), Reed (D-RI), Donnelly (D-IN), King (I-ME), Cantwell (D-WA), Kaine (D-VA) and Schatz (D-HI).
Representative G.K. Butterfield (D-NC) for his letter urging U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) to review the placing in solitary confinement of Wildin Acosta, an undocumented student who has been confined to a detention center since January.
Representatives Sandy Levin (D-MI) and Jim McDermott (D-WA) for opposing two bills during a House Ways and Means meeting that would chip away at the Affordable Care Act including exempting educational institutions from offering healthcare coverage to full-time workers who are also students at those institutions.
Representative Luke Messer (R-IN) for offering an amendment to the defense spending bill that would provide funding for private school vouchers.
Representative Dave Brat (R-VA) for his response to a far-right think tank’s idea for a two-year “stopgap” spending plan that would lock in low funding levels. “I like it up front,” he said.
Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) for referring to the filibuster to force votes on gun violence as a “campaign talkathon.”
June 10, 2016
Tell Congress to invest in our children—the future of America
The Senate Appropriations Committee this week approved the Labor/HHS/Education funding measure for FY2017. While the bill restores year-round Pell Grants and provides nominal increases for a few education programs, NEA believes the minor boosts to Title I and IDEA are inadequate—the result of overly tight budget caps previously adopted by Congress. As states and school districts begin implementing the Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA), it is essential that Congress make a significant investment in programs that lift up our children most in need. Click on the button to tell Congress why our students need a greater investment.
Renewed battle emerges to break rigid budget caps
Less than a year after Congress agreed to provide desperately needed relief to the rigid budget caps that have limited domestic investments, signs emerged this week that senators of both parties may want to broker another agreement. While dueling amendments to increase non-defense and defense funding in the National Defense Authorization Act (S. 2943) both fell short of the needed 60 votes, there was bipartisan support for each, underscoring the concern that the budget caps remain too restrictive and are unwisely limiting funding for crucial needs, like education.
The NEA-opposed amendment introduced by Senator John McCain (R-AZ) would have increased only defense spending by an additional $18 billion. The NEA-supported amendment to Senator McCain’s proposal, introduced by Senators Jack Reed (D-RI) and Barbara Mikulski (D-MD), called for an equal boost to non-defense programs, with billions specifically for Title I, IDEA, college affordability, job training and water infrastructure needs including those in Flint, Michigan, among other domestic priorities. Look for continued debate over again raising the budget caps, likely after the elections when Congress will have to complete work on funding measures.
Democrats ratchet up opposition to child nutrition bill
House Democratic leaders rallied this week with a range of anti-hunger, education, health, and nutrition groups to oppose a block grant proposal and other harmful provisions of the NEA-opposed Improving Child Nutrition and Education Act (H.R. 5003). The bill passed out of committee last month and could go to the House floor at any time. It reauthorizes and makes changes in child nutrition programs that could cause students to go hungry, limit access to school meals, and add administrative burdens just as ESSA implementation begins. Click on the button and tell your representatives to oppose H.R. 5003.
Cheers and Jeers
Representative Rosa DeLauro (D-CT) for leading the effort to stop the block grant and other harmful provisions in the child nutrition reauthorization bill passed by the House education committee, and to Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) and Representatives Bobby Scott (D-VA), Jim McGovern (D-MA), Lloyd Doggett (D-TX), Suzanne Bonamici (D-OR), and Mark Takano (D-CA) for joining and supporting the effort.
Senators Jack Reed (D-RI) and Barbara Mikulski (D-MD) for their amendment to the defense policy bill to boost by $18 billion domestic investments such as education, health, job training and more. Thanks to the senators from both parties who voted in favor of the amendment.
Senator Sherrod Brown (D-OH) and Representatives Steny Hoyer (D-MD), Gwen Moore (D-WI), and Rosa DeLauro (D-CT) for their pointed criticism of Speaker Paul Ryan’s (R-OH) latest anti-poverty plan, misleadingly called “A Better Way,” which would cap Medicaid spending and change programs for children and families in need into a series of block grants. “The only ‘better way’ that Speaker Ryan’s recommendations will offer is a better way to fall into poverty,” DeLauro said.
Representative Nita Lowey (D-NY), the ranking member of the House Appropriations Committee, for offering an amendment to remove a renewal of the Washington, D.C. private school voucher program from the Financial Services funding bill.
26 Senate Democrats for urging President Obama to halt the surge in raids by U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) targeting for arrest and deportation mothers, youths, and unaccompanied children from Central America’s Northern Triangle.
All 30 GOP members on the House Appropriations Committee for supporting the FY2017 Financial Services funding bill that includes a renewal of the Washington, D.C. private school voucher program.
The senators who supported the McCain amendment to boost Defense spending by $18 billion after a similar amendment to increase non-defense spending had failed.