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Sunday, May 16, 2021

EdAction in Congress May 16, 2021 - Education Votes

EdAction in Congress May 16, 2021 - Education Votes
EdAction in Congress May 16, 2021

House to vote on anti-Asian hate crime bill this week

The House is scheduled to vote this week on the COVID-19 Hate Crimes Act (S. 937/H.R. 1843), which passed the Senate by an overwhelming vote of 94-1 on April 22. Introduced by Sen. Mazie Hirono (D-HI), it would strengthen federal efforts to address hate crimes targeting Asian-Americans in several ways: designate a Department of Justice employee to expedite the review of COVID-19 hate crimes, provide guidance for state and local officials for online reporting of such crimes, and require the department to issue guidance to mitigate racially discriminatory language in describing the pandemic. TAKE ACTION

For the People Act advances

After adopting a handful of amendments, the Senate Rules and Administration Committee deadlocked 9-9 in a party-line vote on the For the People Act (S. 1). Nevertheless, Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer vows to bring it to the floor. The need for action is clear: More than 360 bills introduced in 47 state legislatures include provisions to make voting more difficult—for example, by shortening the time for absentee and early voting, requiring voters show an ID at the polls, and purging voter rolls.

The For the People Act rests on three pillars: reaffirming and expanding voting rights, strengthening oversight to end big money in politics, and ensuring an ethical government. It would, among other things, institute automatic voter registration, place new limits on partisan practices like gerrymandering and purging voter rolls, and require candidates for president and vice president to release their tax returns. TAKE ACTION

Educators call on Congress to ensure healthy school meals for all students

Susan Jones, a nutrition services professional in Colonial School District, New Castle, Delaware, has seen far too many students skip lunch because they were afraid they couldn’t afford it or were embarrassed to hand the cashier the card announcing that they qualified for free meals.

“The best possible use of my tax dollar would be to feed a kid,” Jones says, who dreads seeing hungry kids avoid the line and the stigma of the “free lunch” label. “Universal school meals would make a huge difference at the register. Everyone’s going to get lunch, no questions asked. I hope it’s forever.”

If lawmakers are successful, it will be.

Sens. Bernie Sanders of Vermont and Kirsten Gillibrand of New York, and Reps. Ilhan Omar of Minnesota and Gwen Moore of Wisconsin introduced the Universal School Meals Program Act of 2021, which would permanently provide free breakfast, lunch, dinner, and a snack to all school children regardless of income while eliminating school meal debt. READ MORE TAKE ACTION

Victory! NEA’s push to equip students for remote learning gets results

President Biden’s first legislative package, the American Rescue Plan, created a $7.2 billion emergency fund to equip students for remote learning via the Federal Communications Commission’s E-Rate program, as NEA advocated. On May 11, the FCC announced that the program has launched. “The FCC’s action shows the power of the voices of educators advocating for our students,” said NEA President Becky Pringle. “In today’s world, access to the internet is essential for learning. It is critical for conducting research, doing homework, and, when school buildings are closed, attending class. This was true before the COVID-19, and is even more important now coming out of this pandemic.”

Cheers and Jeers

Rep. Liz Cheney (R-WY) delivered a powerful speech about “freedom and our constitutional duty to protect it” before Republicans stripped her of her leadership position,  number three Republican in the House of Representatives, for refusing to spread Donald Trump’s lies. “I will not sit back and watch in silence while others lead our party down a path that abandons the rule of law and joins the former president’s crusade to undermine our democracy,” she said. 

Sen. Bob Casey (D-PA) is introducing the CARE for Kids Act, which would expand free school meal eligibility for the many children living with grandparents or other caregivers due to crises like the opioid epidemic and COVID-19 pandemic.

Education Secretary Miguel Cardona finalized a new regulation that allows colleges to distribute tens of billions in federal pandemic relief grants to all students, regardless of their immigration status or whether they qualify for federal student aid.

Republican Sens. Roy Blunt (MO), Richard Burr (NC), Susan Collins (ME), Chuck  Grassley (IA), Lisa Murkowski (AK), and Rob Portman (OH) joined their Democratic colleagues in a 54-44  vote to confirm NEA member Cindy Marten as Deputy Secretary of Education.