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Education Reporter

NEA's Legislative Program
Highlights Victories, Sets Agenda

At its annual July convention, the NEA claimed credit for the federal government's FY 99 education appropriation, which increased funding for public education by $3.6 billion, or 12%. The NEA cited the $1.2 billion class-size-reduction funding to begin hiring President Clinton's 100,000 new teachers, and the increased funding for IDEA, Title I, Head Start, and the Safe Schools Initiative, as hallmarks of the FY 99 education budget.

The NEA opposes the FY 2000 budget, however, because it "reduces overall domestic spending and cuts spending for education and related programs by $200 million from current year levels." The union pledges to fight any education spending cuts and will push for "an overall increase of 15% or $5 billion for Department of Education programs."

The NEA claimed that the 1998 elections "affirmed [voters'] strong support for maintaining the federal role in public education," and took credit for the "critical victories" of many NEA-backed candidates. (At this year's convention alone, NEA's PAC raised $797,000, an average of $83 per delegate.)

The NEA's Legislative Agenda
The union's legislative agenda for the remainder of the 106th Congress and the beginning of the 107th includes continued emphasis on its "Quality Public Schools Agenda," which calls for legislation to advance the union's five goals: safety and order in every school; every school building in good condition; every classroom connected to new technologies; a qualified teacher in every classroom; and, every child "ready to learn." The NEA will concentrate its lobbying on four "key" areas:

  • modernizing school buildings;
  • reauthorizing and improving the Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA);
  • advancing teacher quality; and
  • recruiting and training new teachers.

The union will oppose any ESEA reauthorization proposals that include vouchers, which the union labels "a threat to quality public schools." NEA also opposes Title I "portability," which would allow Title I funds to follow individual children to whatever schools they attend, including private schools. The NEA further opposes "super Ed-Flex," a plan that would allow states to combine Title I and other ESEA programs into block grants.

The NEA's Lobbying Goals:

  • Federal resources to enhance the availability and quality of public school child care programs, including preschool and before- and after-school programs.
  • Creation of a national database on early childhood care and education programs. Federal programs to assist parents in gaining parenting skills and in understanding child growth and development.
  • Development and implementation of comprehensive, community-based drug and violence prevention programs that link community resources with schools and integrate services involving education, vocational and job skills training and placement, law enforcement, health, mental health, community service, mentoring, and other appropriate services.
  • Effective School-to-Work initiatives.

The NEA will work to:

  • Oppose proposals for Title I funds portability or super Ed-Flex.
  • Continue to align state and local academic standards with assessments, and provide educators with the tools to develop curricula aligned to standards and assessments.
  • Support an FY 2000 class-size reduction appropriation at least equal to President Clinton's request, or preferably, a larger increase of $400 million to hire 15,000 new teachers.
  • Support key provisions in the Children's Gun Violence Protection Act (S.735/H.R.1342), to protect children from firearm violence.
  • Oppose tax-free IRA withdrawals for private and religious school and home-schooling expenses.
  • Oppose all voucher plans.
  • Support an increase in the minimum wage for all employees, including youth.

    Source: Advancing NEA's Legislative Program, July 1999.

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