May 19, 2019
House Passes the Equality Act, Paves the Way for Federal LGBTQ Protections
The House of Representatives passed the Equality Act, H.R. 5, last week,voting to add sexual orientation and gender identity as protected characteristics under the Civil Rights Act of 1964, the Fair Housing Act, and other laws. Fewer than half the states have fully inclusive non-discrimination protections, a patchwork that leaves millions of people vulnerable to discrimination in their daily lives. The legislation ensures the same standard of protections from discrimination regardless of sex, sexual orientation, and gender identity in areas including education, public accommodations and facilities, and employment. The Equality Act is an important step in cultivating safe and nurturing learning environments for all students. The focus now shifts to the Senate, where the companion legislation, S. 788, is under consideration. Click on the take action button to send an email.
USDA Restores Funding to Rural Schools Program, but a Permanent Fix is Needed
The U.S. Department of Agriculture will restore payments, wrongly reduced by the department, that help support public schools in rural communities under the Secure Rural Schools Act. NEA and other organizations, including the National Forest Counties and Schools coalition, are applauding USDA’s reversal, because full funding is critical to nearly 800 counties and 4,400 school districts in 40 states. These are all places where federal agencies manage national forests and public lands, which deprive local communities of tax revenues from those areas. Approximately 9 million students attend schools, and without the funding, their school districts cannot pay for essential services and programs to provide students in these forested communities with a well-rounded education. Even though USDA’s decision is good news, rural schools need a long-term solution. In recent years, Congress has allowed Secure Rural Schools funding to lapse and consistently reduced funding levels, creating uncertainty and causing harsh budget cuts. Senators Ron Wyden (D-OR) and Mike Crapo (R-ID) are expected to introduce legislation that would create an endowment fund that would provide greater revenue stability and new tools for better forest management.
Administration Threatens Educational Quality, Learning Environment for Military-Connected Children
The Department of Defense Education Activity (DoDEA), which operates domestic schools on 14 military installations, is forcing educators to work 24 additional, unpaid hours in each academic quarter. The educators must spend these hours on activities such as reading articles and writing reflections and completing online surveys—busy work that takes them away from teaching and mentoring. The requirement lessens educators’ availability for providing one-on-one attention to students, advising academic clubs, coaching sports teams, and participating in other activities that are part of a well-rounded education. They also have less time for preparing for classes and grading students’ work. DoDEA’s actions are denying the children of military personnel the support they deserve, and creating havoc for educators who must struggle to find last-minute childcare and make other adjustments. The additional time was intended to be used as a flexible bank of hours for DoDEA to draw on for special meetings and other initiatives, with advance notice to employees. Instead, DoDEA is extending the duty day, a violation of the tentative agreement between the agency and employees regarding extra work hours. The Federal Education Association has challenged the validity of the tentative agreement itself, which was never signed. Click on the take action button to send an email.
Cheers and Jeers
Rep. Val Demings (D-FL) for reintroducing the Secure Communities and Safe Schools Act, legislation, H.R. 2383, which would prevent the Trump administration from using anti-terrorism funds to arm educators.
Sens. Susan Collins (R-ME) and Mitt Romney (R-UT) for crossing party lines to oppose the nominations, respectively, of Wendy Vitter to the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Louisiana, and of Michael Truncale to the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Texas.
Chairman Frank Pallone (D-NJ) and Rep. Dave Loebsack (D-IA), of the House Energy and Commerce Committee, for calling out the Federal Communications Commission on its harmful proposal to impose a hard funding cap on the Universal Service Fund and combining the E-rate Program and the Rural Health Care Program under one funding cap, setting schools and rural health centers up to compete against each other.
Sens. Kyrsten Sinema (D-AZ) and Mike Braun (R-IN) for introducing the Consider Teachers Act, S. 1387, which fixes an issue with TEACH grants that mistakenly converted grants awarded to teachers who serve low-income schools into loans requiring repayments. The bill would revert such loans back to grants and discharge accumulated interest and other fees.