Teachers’ union grades lawmakers

The National Education Association, the country’s largest labor union, is handing out grades to members of Congress on Thursday, and it has found that that Senate Republicans have grown friendlier to its agenda while House Republicans have become cooler.

According to the NEA’s Legislative Report Card, 16 Senate Republican senators earned an A, B or C in the first session of the 113th Congress, compared with five in the 2011-2012 and 11 in 2005-2006, when the union, which represents 3 million public school teachers, first began issuing the grades. The GOP currently holds 45 seats in the Senate.

Union officials awarded the grades based in part on how lawmakers voted on issues they deem “important to students and educators,” such as immigration reform, college affordability, state taxation of online sales and non-discrimination in the workplace. The grades also reflect how much work lawmakers are considered to have done to advocate for public education, the kinds of bills they wrote or co-sponsored and how accessible they are to those advocating for public schools, the union said.

“We’re encouraged by the uptick in bipartisan support on certain issues in the Senate, but there remains so much work to be done in both education policy and on issues that impact students, their families, and educators across the country,” said the NEA’s director of government relations, Mary Kusler. “To promote the success of all students and public education, in meaningful ways, we need to see more cooperation in areas where we’ve been continually deadlocked.”

In the House, 25 Republicans earned grades of A, B or C in 2013, compared with 35 in the 2011-12 ratings and 52 in the 2005-06 ratings. The GOP holds 233 seats in the House.

By and large, Democrats were given high marks by the union, even lawmakers who promoted policies that are controversial with unions, such as expanding charter schools, using student academic performance to evaluate teachers and giving merit bonuses to teachers.

Every member of the congressional delegation — House and Senate members — from Connecticut, Maine, Hawaii, Massachusetts, Rhode Island and Vermont were given As. Meanwhile, the entire delegations of both Oklahoma and Wyoming earned Fs.

Lyndsey Layton has been covering national education since 2011, writing about everything from parent trigger laws to poverty’s impact on education to the shifting politics of school reform.
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