If you are an NEA member, an NEA Executive or Administrative staff member, or one of their family members, you may access the full features of Strong Public Schools.
Educators and education advocates know that strong public schools are the best way to give every student the opportunity to succeed, regardless of zip code. Speaking with one voice, we can elect officials who agree.
This section provides a better understanding of NEA's positions and goals.
NEA Positions and Goals
Section I. Opportunity Begins with Great Public Schools for Every Student
A. Equity for All Students
- The NEA supports requiring each state, as a condition of receiving federal ESEA funds, to submit a plan outlining how—over a period of years—it will remedy disparities in educational tools, services, opportunities, and resources among districts and schools.
- The NEA believes that budgets should prioritize federal education funds for critical formula grant programs, specifically Title I.
- The NEA believes that budgets should prioritize federal education funds for critical formula grant programs, specifically IDEA.
- The NEA urges elected officials to advocate for mandatory full funding at the promised 40 percent level for IDEA.
- The NEA believes that elected officials, when determining how education dollars are allocated in their budgets, should significantly curtail the use of competitive grants, such as Race to the Top, which often require states to alter their education policies.
B. Meeting the Needs of the Whole Child
- The NEA believes elected officials should urge Congress to pass legislation establishing a new federal-state partnership to help fund high-quality prekindergarten for all children from low- and moderate-income families.
- The NEA supports providing at least the current level of benefits for children under Medicaid and the Children's Health Insurance Program (CHIP).
- The NEA supports ensuring rigorous nutrition standards for meals and snacks.
- The NEA supports technical assistance and adequate funding for improved and/or necessary kitchen infrastructure and equipment.
- The NEA supports training for all school nutrition personnel to sustain a highly-skilled, professional workforce through provisions of the Healthy, Hunger-Free Kids Act and other federal nutrition policies.
C. Strengthening the Teaching Profession
- The NEA supports providing incentives-through federal policy-for teacher preparation programs to include comprehensive "residencies" in which accomplished teachers provide guidance to new teachers to ensure that knowledge gained from coursework is also rooted in classroom practice.
- The NEA supports requiring classroom-based performance assessments for all teacher candidates-before they are given the responsibility for a classroom-to ensure they possess both the skills and knowledge needed for classroom instruction.
- The NEA supports educator certification programs, such as that provided by the National Board for Professional Teaching Standards, which offer valuable professional development and high standards for educators to further their practice.
- The NEA supports providing incentive-through federal policy-for teacher preparation programs to emphasize recruiting and retaining candidates from under-represented groups to reflect the growing diversity of our student population.
D. Ensuring Access to the American Dream
- The NEA supports comprehensive immigration reform that includes a pathway to citizenship for aspiring Americans, protection of family unity, and the DREAM Act.
E. Revamping Accountability in K-12 Public Schools
- The NEA believes elected officials should urge Congress to pass legislation reducing the number of federally-mandated, high-stakes standardized tests.
- Within the Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA), the NEA supports requiring the use of multiple measures to evaluate student and school performance.
- The NEA opposes basing teachers' evaluations predominantly or significantly on students' scores on standardized tests.
- Charter schools are publicly funded, yet not all federal requirements apply to them. The NEA supports holding charter schools, including online charter schools, to the same standards of transparency and accountability as traditional public schools.
F. Private School Vouchers
- The NEA opposes federal private school voucher and tuition tax credit programs, including demonstration or pilot projects.
Section II: Opportunity Requires an Economy that Works for America's Middle Class
A. Raising the Minimum Wage
- The NEA believes elected officials should urge Congress to pass legislation to raise the federal minimum wage from $7.25 per hour to at least $10.10 per hour, and tie future wage increases to inflation on an annual basis.
B. Making College More Affordable and Accessible
- The NEA believes elected officials should urge Congress to pass legislation allowing federal student loans to be refinanced-like mortgages-when interest rates decline.
- The NEA supports expanding federal loan forgiveness programs for those who choose public service careers-specifically, educators.
- The NEA supports making college more affordable and accessible for all Americans by increasing the maximum Pell Grant award to keep pace with inflation, or at a minimum maintaining the current maximum award of $5,730 per student per year.
C. Ensuring Democracy in the Workplace: Protecting Workers' Rights to Collectively Bargain
- The NEA believes all public education employees should have the right to bargain collectively.
D. Improving the Affordable Care Act
- The NEA supports the repeal of taxation of employer-sponsored health insurance.
E. Honoring Work by Ensuring Retirement Security
- The NEA supports eliminating or reforming the Government Pension Offset and the Windfall Elimination Provision.
- The NEA supports raising the Social Security payroll tax cap.
- The NEA opposes converting Medicare to a voucher system.
- The NEA supports providing at least the current level of benefits for Medicare recipients.
Section III: Opportunity for All Requires a Democracy that Works for All
- The NEA believes elected officials should urge Congress to update Section 4 of the Voting Rights Act to ensure voter protection and access by requiring preclearance of proposed voting laws in those jurisdictions that have a recent record of violations of voting rights and disenfranchisement.
- The NEA supports a constitutional amendment enabling Congress to regulate and limit federal political campaign contributions and expenditures.
Section I. Opportunity Begins with Great Public Schools for Every Student
- More than 16 million children in the United States-22 percent of all children-live in poverty. These children would not have the supports they need to succeed without consistent, targeted federal resources. (Source: National Center for Children in Poverty)
- Some states and districts spend two to three times more per pupil than others, and that will persist without strategies designed to ensure that students have equitable access to resources. (Source: For Each and Every Child, Equity and Excellence Commission, 2013)
- "The educational achievement gap in the United States exists in and out of the classroom, and extends from the earliest years of childhood across the lifespan." (Source: The Academic Achievement Gap, Campaign for Educational Equity, 2005)
- The "cornerstones of the federal role today" are two laws first enacted in 1965: the Elementary and Secondary Education Act, which "provided aid to states and school districts to improve education for children from low-income families and meet other critical educational needs," and the Higher Education Act, which "opened the door to postsecondary education for those who could not afford it." (Source: A Brief History of the Federal Role in Education Policy, Center on Education Policy, 1999)
- Since its initial enactment in 1975, the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) has included a commitment for the federal government to pay 40 percent of the average per student cost for every special education student. The current federal share is under 16 percent.
- Competitive grants-which undermine equity by creating winners and losers among students-have risen in recent years, often at the expense of need-driven formula grants for the students most in need. The Department of Education's proposed FY2015 budget called for a cut of nearly 5 percent to discretionary formula grants (compared to FY2014) while competitive grants would increase nearly 70 percent.
- The out-of-school factors most likely to limit student success are highly correlated with poverty: low birth weight; prenatal exposure to drugs or alcohol; inadequate medical, dental, and vision care; food insecurity; exposure to mercury, lead, and other pollutants and poisons; family breakdown and stress; and neighborhood violence. (Source: Poverty and Potential: Out-of-School Factors and School Success, National Education Policy Center, 2009)
- One in four infants, toddlers, and preschoolers lives in poverty during the crucial early years of brain development, and less than half our three- and four-year olds are enrolled in preschool. (Source: The State of America's Children, Children's Defense Fund, 2014)
- Research shows that high-quality prekindergarten programs confer lasting benefits—children who attend them are less likely to drop out of school, repeat grades, need special education, or get in trouble with the law later on. (Source: Lifetime Effects: The HighScope Perry Preschool Study through Age 40, 2005)
- A survey of schools conducted by the Kids' Safe and Healthful Food Project found that to serve students healthy meals in a cost-effective way, 88 percent of school districts needed at least one piece of kitchen equipment, and 55 percent needed infrastructure upgrades such as electrical and plumbing systems, natural gas, ventilation, and increased space. (Source: Serving Healthy School Meals, The Pew Charitable Trusts, 2013)
- The United States can learn from the examples of the top-scoring nations on the Programme for International Student Assessment (PISA) such as Singapore, Finland, and South Korea. "Top-performing countries have a deep history of prestige attached to teaching … [and] fund schools for the poor and the affluent roughly equally; in the U.S., a tradition of locally-based school finance leads to wide disparities in per pupil funding—a relevant factor when the chief component of school budgets is teacher salaries … "[S]tudents receive salaries or stipends while they train. In the U.S., by contrast, students often go into debt to pay tuition at education schools while foregoing the salaries they could earn by working." (Source: Closing the talent gap: Attracting and retaining top-third graduates to careers in teaching, McKinsey and Company, 2010)
- “[In Finland] teachers' preparation includes both extensive coursework on how to teach—with a strong emphasis on using research based on state-of-the-art practice—and at least a full year of clinical experience in a school associated with the university." (Source: Linda Darling-Hammond, Charles E. Ducommun Professor of Education at Stanford University, What we can learn from Finland's successful school reform, 2010)
- Every new teacher should receive targeted support and participate in an induction and mentoring program. Novice teachers need more time for planning than experienced teachers and should have opportunities to observe experienced teachers at work. (Source: Teacher Assessment and Evaluation: The National Education Association's Framework for Transforming Education, 2010)
- About 65,000 undocumented children who have lived in the United States for five years or longer graduate from high school each year. Although they can legally attend most colleges, they are not eligible for most forms of financial aid. Because of barriers to their continued education and their exclusion from the legal workforce, only between 5 and 10 percent of undocumented high-school graduates go to college. (Source: Immigration Policy Center)
- Allowing undocumented immigrants to work in the United States legally would increase their state and local tax contributions by an estimated $2 billion a year, and boost the American economy by an estimated $700 billion over a ten-year period. (Source: Institute on Taxation and Economic Policy, Congressional Budget Office)
- No Child Left Behind increased the number of federally-mandated, high-stakes tests in reading and math from 6 to 14; introduced new high-stakes tests in science; and made participation in the National Assessment of Educational Progress mandatory instead of voluntary. (Source: U.S. Department of Education)
- Three out of four Americans say that increased testing has either hurt or made no difference in improving schools. (Source: 2013 PDK/Gallup Poll of Public Attitudes Toward Public Education)
- "Today, education is perhaps the most important function of state and local governments … it is doubtful that any child may reasonably be expected to succeed in life if he is denied the opportunity, where the state has undertaken to provide it, is a right which must be made available to all on equal terms."-Unanimous decision of the United States Supreme Court in Brown v. Board of Education, 1954
- "[A]s the charter sector grows far faster than originally envisioned, the risks are high and growing, while the benefits are less clear … The problem is pervasive; our search, despite being limited to fewer than half of the states with charter schools, found over $100 million in public tax funds lost to waste, fraud, and abuse." (Source: Charter School Vulnerabilities to Waste, Fraud, and Abuse, Center for Popular Democracy and Integrity in Education, 2014)
- Official evaluations of voucher programs in Milwaukee, Cleveland, and Washington, DC, have found no statistically significant differences in the academic achievement of voucher students compared to public school students. Public school students have been found to outperform private school students when test scores are weighted to reflect socioeconomic level, race, and disability. (Source: National Center for the Study of Privatization in Education, Teachers College, Columbia University)
- Millions of tax dollars have been lost to private school operators who fraudulently misrepresented enrollment data; failed to provide safe, academically appropriate learning environments; and otherwise gamed the system for personal profit. (Source: District of Columbia Opportunity Scholarship Program, U.S. Government Accountability Office, 2013)
Section II: Opportunity Requires an Economy that Works for America's Middle Class
- At the current federal minimum wage of $7.25 per hour, a parent who works full-time, year-round does not earn enough to be above the federal poverty line. If the minimum wage were raised to $10.10, more than 1.7 million American workers would no longer rely on public assistance programs and government expenditures on current income-support programs would be reduced by $7.6 billion per year. (Source: Economic Policy Institute, 2014)
- U.S. students' debt burden of $1.2 trillion is the second largest form of consumer debt—exceeded only by home mortgages. (Source: Consumer Finance Protection Bureau)
- Seventy percent of U.S. students now borrow money to attend college; the average student graduates with a debt of $30,000. (Source: College Board)
- "[D]ata from the U.S. Department of Education shows that from 1996 through 2012, public colleges and universities gave a declining portion of grants—as measured by both the number of grants and the dollar amounts—to students in the lowest quartile of family income. That trend has continued even though the recession hit those in lower income brackets the hardest." (Source: Public Universities Ramp Up Aid for the Wealthy, ProPublica, 2013)
- "As recently as in the 1980s, the maximum Pell Grant covered more than half the cost of attending a four-year public college. Even after the recent increases, the $5,730 maximum Pell Grant in 2014-15 is expected to cover less than one-third of the cost of college—the lowest since the start of the program." (Source: Institute for College Access and Success, 2014)
- Thirty-four states and Washington, DC, explicitly allow collective bargaining for teachers and education support professionals and higher education faculty. Although 17 states do not have collective bargaining statutes, in most of those states limited bargaining takes place for some or all categories of education employees. (Source: National Education Association, Collective Bargaining and Member Advocacy Department)
- "[E]vidence and examples drawn from the public and private sectors show that collective bargaining and workplace innovations based on a mutual interest, joint problem-solving approach can produce positive outcomes for employers, employees, customers, and citizens, especially dur-ing fiscal crisis ..." (Source: Getting It Right: Empirical Evidence and Policy Implications from Research on Public-Sector Unionism and Collective Bargaining, Employment Policy Research Network, 2011)
- Employer-sponsored health benefits have never been taxed in this country. American workers have made financial sacrifices to maintain their health benefits, often forgoing salary increases to ensure that they and their families have the security provided by health insurance. (Source: Joint Committee on Taxation)
- Taxing health benefits would disproportionately affect women and older workers. The age and gender composition of a covered group is a major determinant of plan expense. Employer groups that are predominantly women, like educators, will be faced with a higher tax simply because of the gender of their workers. (Source: The Problem with Taxing Cadillac Health Plans, Watson Wyatt Worldwide, 2009)
- Middle class taxes would go up between $2,000 and $3,000 per tax return if benefits were taxed. (Source: Joint Committee on Taxation)
- The Government Pension Offset reduces or eliminates the Social Security survivor benefits of over 615,000 beneficiaries; of these individuals, 44 percent are widows/widowers and about 81 percent are women. The approximately one million beneficiaries currently affected by the Windfall Elimination Provision lose a significant amount of their earned Social Security benefits. (Source: Congressional Research Service)
- In 2014, 59 million people will collect Social Security benefits. For nearly two-thirds (65 percent) of elderly beneficiaries, Social Security is the principal source of their cash income. Among the elderly, for 22 percent of married couples and about 47 percent unmarried people, Social Security provides more than 90 percent of their income. For one-quarter (24 percent) of elderly beneficiaries, Social Security is the sole source of retirement income. Today, every dollar of the average Social Security retirement benefit of about $15,500 is absolutely critical to the typical beneficiary. (Source: Social Security Administration)
- Without Social Security benefits, more than 44 percent of Americans aged 65 and older would have incomes below the federal poverty line, all else being equal. With Social Security benefits, less than one-tenth of the elderly do. The program lifts more than 15 million elderly Americans out of poverty. (Source: Center on Budget and Policy Priorities)
- Most retirees enroll in Medicare's Supplementary Medical Insurance (also known as Medicare Part B) and have Part B premiums deducted from their Social Security checks. As healthcare costs continue to outpace general inflation, those premiums will take a bigger bite out of their checks. (Source: Center for Retirement Research at Boston College)
- As proposed, the 2014 Ryan Budget while converting Medicare to a voucher system would also limit the growth rate of Medicare spending for new beneficiaries from year to year, starting in 2024, to the growth rate of gross domestic product (GDP) per capita plus one-half percentage point - an amount that will likely fall short of the actual growth of health care costs. Also, Medicare would no longer make payments to health care providers such as doctors and hospitals, the only way to keep Medicare cost growth within the target of GDP growth plus one-half percentage point would be to limit the annual increase in the amount of the premium-support vouchers. As a result, the vouchers would purchase less coverage with each passing year, pushing more costs on to beneficiaries. Over time, seniors would have to pay more to keep the health plans and the doctors they like, or they would get fewer benefits. (Source: Center on Budget and Policy Priorities)
- In the past, Section 4 of the Voting Rights Act provided crucial preclearance oversight from the federal government when states wished to change voting laws. This oversight was an invaluable protection in states and counties with a chronic history of voter discrimination and voter suppression. The mere existence of Section 4 often served as a deterrent to states attempting to enact unjust voting laws. While the Voting Rights Act was successful in eliminating voter suppression devices over the past four decades, voter suppression efforts continue to evolve. In 2013 alone, 92 restrictive voting bills were introduced in 33 states and at least 9 of those bills became law in 8 states. (Source: Brennan Center for Justice)
- Unlimited campaign expenditures by corporate and other moneyed interests undermine the role of individual citizens and voters in our democracy. In 2012, a mere 61 donors to Super PACs, giving $4.7 million on average, matched the $285.2 million in grassroots contributions from more than 1.4 million small donors to the major-party presidential candidates. Of the record $6 billion spent in the 2012 elections, more than $1 billion—triple the amount in 2010—came from outside sources, mainly a relatively small group of wealthy donors that "reportedly sought to raise $400 million for tax-exempt groups that are not required to disclose their spending." (Source: Little to Show for Cash Flood by Big Donors, New York Times, 2012)