Legislative Action Center

ACSI urges Christian schools to be proactive on legislative fronts that affect the Christian school movement and religious liberty, both nationally and internationally. 

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Legislative Alerts and Updates

West Virginia ESAs:  Your Help Requested
February 27, 2017

An Education Savings Account (ESA) bill, SB 273, was introduced in the West Virginia Legislature.  We urge West Virginia ACSI member schools and their school communities please to Take Action today to support an ESA in West Virginia.  Simply click here before April 8, 2017 to contact your state legislators and Governor.  More information about ESAs is below.

ESA Talking Points
ESA FAQs
SB 273

Thank you: DeVos Confirmed
February 7, 2017

The U.S. Senate voted February 7, 2017, to confirm the nomination of Betsy DeVos as Secretary of Education by a vote of 51 - 50 with Vice President Mike Pence casting the tie-breaking vote.  Congratulations to the new Education Secretary.  Thank you to all the Christian school leaders and community members who answered our appeal to contact your Senators as we worked to shore up wavering supporters and convince opponents. 

Immediate Action Needed! Support DeVos
February 2, 2017

Please urge your U.S. Senators to vote to confirm Betsy DeVos as Secretary of Education.  Time is of the essence.  Details and talking points are at the link.  Thank you!

Supporting Betsy DeVos for Secretary of Education
January 17, 2017

ACSI sent a letter to Sen. Lamar Alexander (R-Tennessee), Chairman of the U.S. Senate Committee on Health, Education, Labor and Pensions (HELP), in support of the nomination of Betsy DeVos as Secretary of Education. 

Conscience Protection: Pro-Life
July 13, 2016

On Wednesday, July 13, 2016, the House passed by a vote of 245 - 182 the Conscience Protection Act (CPA) (S. 304) and sponsored by Rep. Diane Black (R-Tennessee), a nurse, and Rep. John Fleming (R-Louisiana), a medical doctor.  The legislation protects the right of conscience on the issue of abortion by codifying an amendment that has long been added yearly as a rider to annual appropriations bills.

The bill is worth noting here because while the CPA's primary goal is to protect medical professionals from being forced to participate in abortion or abortion referrals, it also protects institutions, such as religious schools, from policies like California's which requires health insurance to include abortion coverage.  Even churches and Christian schools in California must pay for such coverage.  The CPA gives a private right of action so that they can sue the state against enforcement of its policy - and win damages and attorney fees.  The bill must still be considered by the Senate and signed by the President who has threatened to veto it.

You may want to express your thanks to your Representative if he or she voted for the CPA or your concern if he or she voted against it.  You may call and ask for your Representative by name at the Capitol Switchboard, 202-225-3121.  To find out who your Representative is and to get other contact information such as for email, please visit www.house.gov and enter your zip code in the box at the top right of the webpage.

More information:
From Lifesitenews.com, BREAKING: House passes bill to stop govt from forcing people to participate in abortion
From CNSNews.com,  House Votes 245-182 for Conscience Protection Act
See also, A Win for Conscience in the House from the Family Research Council.

School Choice in D.C.
July 7, 2016

There's good news to report from D.C.!  The House completed action on the Financial Services and General Government (FSGG) Appropriations bill (H.R. 5485) late Thursday evening, July 7, 2016.  It's good news because the bill includes two positive outcomes for Christian schools in the District of Columbia and thus serves as a national example.

First, the House passed Rep. Gary Palmer's (R-Alabama) amendment by a vote of 223-192.  The Palmer amendment prohibits funding of the D.C. Reproductive Health Non-Discrimination Act (RHNDA), a local D.C. law which takes away the right of D.C. employers to make employment decisions on the basis of deeply held religious beliefs about the sanctity of life. 

Then, the House also passed the overall FSGG appropriation bill, H.R. 5485, which includes a reauthorization of the D.C. school choice program.  The Scholarships for Opportunity and Results (SOAR) Act is Title IX of the appropriation bill.  It reauthorizes the D.C. Opportunity Scholarship Program (OSP), a successful program that provides scholarships which families in need may use at faith-based schools.  ACSI member-schools in the District of Columbia participate in the OSP.  The vote on final passage was 239-185.  

The legislation must still pass the Senate and receive the President's signature -- a very significant challenge.  Thank you for continuing to keep these matters in your prayers.

Public Comment on Proposed Regulations for ESSA/ESEA
July 7, 2016

The U.S. Department of Education issued a Notice of Proposed Rulemaking (NPRM) seeking Public Comment on proposed regulations to implement the new Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA) which reauthorizes the Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA) of 1965.  The deadline for Public Comment is August 1, 2016.  ACSI has been working with the Council for American Private Education (CAPE) of which we are a member-association.  CAPE submitted Public Comment urging that the regulations reflect the law's standards for private school students and teachers in equitable services, namely through assurance of compliance and by including private school representatives in the list of stakeholders to be consulted.  CAPE pointed out that:

Officials at the Department have indicated that the number of comments submitted on a particular topic can have an impact on the rule-making process. Accordingly, I encourage you to consider submitting original comments similar to those offered by CAPE, or as a second-tier option, to submit comments supporting the comments offered by CAPE (e.g., "[Name of Organization] supports the comments submitted by the Council for American Private Education).  Comments, which are due no later than August 1, 2016, may be submitted online at:  https://www.regulations.gov/docket?D=ED-2016-OESE-0032.

Accordingly, ACSI has submitted Public Comment.  The U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB) has done so as well.  All three submissions are included below for your reference.  ACSI member-schools have inquired about the Public Comment period asking what, if anything, they could or should do.  ACSI encourages you to submit your own Public Comment which can be as simple as the one-line example above.  Even if your school does not participate in equitable services, your voice will help your colleagues who do and keep that option accessible should you choose to participate in the future.

ACSI Public Comment on ESSA NPRM, July 7, 2016
CAPE Public Comment on ESSA NPRM, June 21, 2016
USCCB Public Comment on ESSA NPRM, July 5, 2016

First Amendment Defense Act (FADA)
February 16, 2016

ACSI joined a coalition letter urging House Leadership to bring FADA to a vote as soon as possible. Read the letter here.

School Choice in D.C.—Next Steps
December 18, 2015

Thank you to all who responded to yesterday's alert. The House and Senate voted today, Friday, December 18, 2015, to pass the Omnibus spending bill. It did not include the SOAR Act that would reauthorize the D.C. Opportunity Scholarship Program (OSP). That is a real disappointment since the Omnibus was an ideal opportunity to do this. We have next year to push ahead though it will be hard work. Please be in prayer about this—all of ACSI's member-schools in the District of Columbia participate in the OSP. The program provides scholarships for low-income children and our schools are reaching out to underserved children in D.C.

The Omnibus did include an appropriation for the OSP and it included additional requirements for participating schools, principally one requiring schools to be accredited.

School Choice in D.C.—Your Help Needed Today
December 17, 2015

The House passed a bill to reauthorize the DC Opportunity Scholarship Program (OSP) on October 21, 2015. The Senate has introduced a bill to do the same thing. The bill is called the Scholarships for Opportunity and Results (SOAR) Act. It has not yet moved in the Senate. The OSP is a school choice program that benefits low-income students and gives their parents more options, including faith-based options, for the education of their children. All ACSI member-schools in D.C. participate in OSP.

First, I want to thank ACSI member-schools in the District of Columbia once again for the excellent turnout at the Senate hearing on November 4th.  Your impact was powerful. Nearly 50 students, teachers and leaders came to the hearing and filled the hearing room. It gave a great boost to the legislation.

Now, we need everyone's help—but especially our D.C. member-schools' help—with the next step. Our hope was that the SOAR Act would be included in the must-pass Omnibus funding bill. It is the best vehicle to pass the SOAR Act. I regret to say, it was not in the Omnibus and the House is due to vote tomorrow on the Omnibus. 

Will you please call the Speaker's office and urge them to find a way to add the SOAR Act to the Omnibus? 

You may simply say "I represent a D.C. school which participates in the DC Opportunity Scholarship Program (OSP) [or a concerned school outside D.C. which supports our D.C. colleagues] and I urge you please to find a way to pass the SOAR Act through the Omnibus. Thank you for your hard work so far. I realize how hard this will be, but I also understand that right now it is the best way to preserve the program after 2016. Thank you again."

The Speaker's office phone line is (202) 225-0600.

Thank you for your immediate help.  It will make a difference!

President Signs S. 1177, the Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA), Today
December 10, 2015

President Obama today signed into law the reauthorization of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA). Thank you to all who contacted their legislators to get us to this point. A summary of today's bill signing can be found at Education Week's Politics K-12 blog.

Once the conference committee reconciled the House and Senate bills into one, Congress moved quickly to agree to the final language and send it to the President. The House voted by 359 - 84 to agree to ESSA on December 2. The Senate voted 85 - 12 to agree to ESSA on December 9. The President signed it into law today, December 10, 2015. 

The final bill includes strong language to improve equitable services, ACSI's top priority. Portability, a form of school choice, did not survive the process, but the bill does begin to restrain federal influence. The final result also expanded public early education programs, a presidential priority, but softened the impact somewhat by emphasizing the need for "mixed delivery" systems and by putting it partly under the Department of Health and Human Services. All in all, the ESEA reauthorization is a step in the right direction, especially for Christian schools who choose to participate in ESEA's equitable services.

Senate Passes S. 1177, the Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA), 85 -12
December 9, 2015

Thank you to all who called your Senators to support the equitable services language in S. 1177 (ESSA). The Senate passed the legislation today. The House passed the measure December 2nd. It now moves to the President for his signature. President Obama is expected to sign ESSA, which reauthorizes the Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA), before the end of this year—and possibly very soon. The four-year reauthorization includes important improvements in the process of equitable services, a key priority for ACSI member-schools. It also reduces the federal footprint in education. 

House Passes S. 1177, the Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA), 359 - 64

December 2, 2015

Many thanks to those who called their Representative in support of the equitable services language in S. 1177. The bill now moves to the Senate. If it passes, it will go to the President for his signature. 

It will be helpful to contact your two Senators (see below for information).

Congress to Vote on S. 1177, the Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA)
December 1, 2015

In July 2015, both chambers of Congress passed bills to reauthorize the Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA). This fall, each chamber appointed members of a conference committee to hash out the differences in the two bills. The conference committee finished its work on November 19, 2015 and a final bill was published Monday, November 30, 2015. Now, each chamber must vote to approve the legislation. The House could vote as early as Thursday, December 3, and the Senate could vote soon afterwards. 

The final bill is called the Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA). The bill number is S. 1177. ACSI supports the language in the bill which deals with equitable services. If that language passes, it will greatly improve the process when your school chooses to participate in receiving equitable services.

Please call your Representative and your two Senators and let them know you support the strong improvements that S. 1177 makes in equitable services and would like to see that language become law.

The House Switchboard is 202-225-3121. The Senate Switchboard is 202-224-3121. You can call and simply ask for your Representative or Senators by name and leave a message of support. It will matter if you call!

If you do not know who your Representative is, please visit www.house.gov. Enter your zip code in the box at the upper right.

If you do not know who your Senators are, please visit www.senate.gov. Select your state in the drop-down box at the upper right.

If you prefer to email, use the links above to find your Representative's and Senators' websites. They will have a way for constituents to email them. Here's sample text you can use (feel free to copy and paste):

Dear Senator [or Rep.],

I am NAME of NAME OF SCHOOL in CITY, STATE. I am writing to urge you to support S. 1177, the Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA), which includes language that strongly improves equitable services. The Elementary and Secondary Education Act, which ESSA reauthorizes, has provided for equitable services for all students and teachers since it was first enacted 50 years ago.  Over the course of years, the process by which that happens has eroded. ESSA makes the needed improvements to ensure that all teachers and students, including those in private and religious schools, receive the services that the law requires. Thank you for your consideration. I look forward to hearing from you.

ESSA RESOURCES:

For more comprehensive information on ESSA, please visit the House Committee on Education and the Workforce ESEA website.
ACSI Letter on ESSA, Dec. 1, 2015
Council for American Private Education (CAPE) Letter on ESSA
National Catholic Education Association Letter on ESSA
Agudath Israel Letter on ESSA
CAPE Comparisons of private school priorities with the final ESSA bill

House Passes H.R. 10 - Scholarships for Opportunity and Results (SOAR) Reauthorization Act of 2015
October 21, 2015
Today the House passed H.R. 10, the Scholarships for Opportunity and Results (SOAR) Reauthorization Act of 2015 by a vote of 240 - 191.

The SOAR Act includes a reauthorization of the successful and bipartisan D.C. Opportunity Scholarship Program (OSP) which gives low-income parents education options for their children that include faith-based alternatives.

ACSI member-schools in the District of Columbia participate in the program. OSP scholarship recipients graduate at a rate of 90%, some 30-points higher than DC public school students.

Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) deserves thanks for sponsoring the legislation and for his many years of proven commitment to the OSP. The next step is for the Senate to take up the legislation.

Thank you to all those who called/emailed their Representative about this important parental choice legislation for the District of Columbia.

Please Take Action - Scholarships for Opportunity and Results (SOAR) Act, H.R. 10
October 19, 2015

Dear Christian School Community,

The House is due to vote as early as Wednesday (10/21/2015) to renew a major federal school choice program for the District of Columbia. ACSI member-schools in DC participate in the DC Opportunity Scholarship Program (OSP). The OSP provides "opportunity scholarships" to low-income children in the District which they can use at private schools, including faith-based schools. 

The SOAR Act not only reauthorizes the DC OSP with $20 million in funding, but also provides an additional $40 million in funding for DC public schools and DC public charter schools. Thus, parents have a wide range of choices.

The OSP is a successful program which deserves to be reauthorized. Students using a scholarship have a greater than 90% graduation rate, 30 points higher than children in public schools. The average income for participating families is less than $22,000 per year. 97% of participating children are African-American or Hispanic. Over 16,000 families have participated in the program since it began. 

Please contact your Representative and ask him/her to vote for H.R. 10, the SOAR Act. You can call the House switchboard at 202-225-3121 and ask for your Representative by name. You can find out who your Representative is at www.house.gov. From there, you can click your Representative's web page to contact him/her directly via email. 

What you can say by phone or email:  Please support the SOAR Act, H.R. 10, when it comes up for a vote in the House. The bill gives low-income parents many choices by renewing the Opportunity Scholarship Program (OSP) and by providing extra funding to DC public schools and DC public charter schools. The OSP is a successful program which gives low-income families more options for their children. The OSP graduates 90% of scholarship recipients.  Thank you for your consideration.

For more information, see below. For extensive additional information, please see the D.C. Opportunity Scholarship Program website.

Speaker Introduces Bipartisan Legislation to Reauthorize D.C. School Choice Program
October 5, 2015

Today the Speaker of the House of Representatives, John Boehner (R-Ohio), introduced legislation to reauthorize a successful school choice program in the nation's capital. The Scholarships for Opportunity and Results Act of 2015 (SOAR Act, H.R. 10) reauthorizes the District of Columbia Opportunity Scholarship Program (OSP) which gives low-income D.C. families the opportunity to attend the school of their choice. ACSI member-schools in D.C. participate in the OSP which gives parents the ability and opportunity to choose faith-based options to educate their children. ACSI issued a Statement in support of the legislation. See also the Speaker's Press Release.

Please Take Action - First Amendment Defense Act (FADA)
June 26, 2015 by P. George Tryfiates

Dear Christian School Community,

Please contact your Members of Congress and urge them to support the First Amendment Defense Act (FADA). The bill number is S. 1598 in the Senate and H.R. 2802 in the House.  In light of the Supreme Court's June 26 decision to create a constitutional right to same-sex marriage, FADA is needed more than ever. The bill will prevent the federal government from discriminating against those who believe and act in accord with their belief in the truth about marriage. The bill applies specifically to areas of key concern for Christian schools by forbidding government discrimination in accreditation, licensure and tax-exempt status. Please call, write or email today.  Thank you.

ACTION REQUEST:  Please contact your Members of Congress and urge them to support FADA.  A sample email is below.

Look up the contact information and the name of your Representative and of your two U.S. Senators.
To call your Representative or Senators, use the Switchboard number below and ask for your Member by name:
House Switchboard  (202) 225-3121
Senate Switchboard  (202) 224-3121

Sample text* for an email:

Dear Representative OR Dear Senator,
I am writing to urge you to support the First Amendment Defense Act (FADA) (S. 1598 and H.R. 2802). The recent Supreme Court marriage decision noted that "it must be emphasized" that religious citizens "may continue to advocate with utmost, sincere conviction" their conscience in matters related to the truth about marriage. The FADA will ensure that religious citizens face no government discrimination in exercising their sacred First Amendment rights. Please do all you can to ensure passage of FADA at the earliest possible opportunity. Thank you for your consideration. I look forward to hearing back from you.

Signed,
[NAME/ADDRESS]

*Note:  Here is a list of co-sponsors of S. 1598 and H.R. 2802 as of June 26, 2015. If your Member is a co-sponsor, please include in your message your thanks for showing their support by becoming a co-sponsor of FADA. If your Member is not on the list of co-sponsors, you could add that "I also urge you to become a co-sponsor of FADA at your earliest opportunity." Thank you.

Resources to help Christian schools:

Text of S. 1598

Impact to Christian Schools: the Supreme Court's Ruling on Same Sex Marriage

FADA Talking Points

Please Take Action - Dear Christian School Community -
Apr 29, 2015 by P. George Tryfiates

Congress will begin debate tomorrow—Thursday, April 30 - on a "resolution of disapproval" of a District of Columbia law that violates the First Amendment rights of religious employers. The House will vote Thursday or Friday.  Please understand that it is imperative we contact Congress right away.

It is highly unusual for Congress to disapprove of D.C. laws. This one rises to the level of seriousness to urge Congress to take that action. But, the House needs to hear from the public very strongly in support of doing so.

On Wednesday morning, it appeared this vote would never happen, but we now have an open door by God's good grace and providence. 

ACTION REQUEST: 

Please prayerfully call your Representative right away and urge him/her to vote YES on H.J. Res. 43, a resolution of disapproval of the D.C. Reproductive Health Non-Discrimination Act (RHNDA).

Simply call the Capitol Switchboard at 202.225.3121 and ask for your Representative by name. 

The Hill has an excellent overview with talking points on the issues at stake.

Don't know who your Representative is? Enter your zip code in the box provided.  It will bring up your Representative and his/her contact information.  You can call or send an email. 

If you prefer to email, here's sample text (in italics) you can use --

Dear Rep. NAME,

As your constituent, I am urging you to vote YES on H.J. Res 43 to STOP the D.C. government from attacking conscience rights and religious liberty.

Under the so-called "Reproductive Non-Discrimination Act of 2014 (RHNDA)," employers across D.C. could be forced to cover abortion in their health plans. That includes pro-life groups and even Christian schools. These same entities will be forced to hire and retain employees that actively defy and undermine their own missions.

This is just another assault on conscience rights and religious liberty, and it must be stopped.

Please stand up for the First Amendment by voting YES on H.J. Res 43.

I look forward to your reply on this urgent matter.

You can also find a copy of ACSI's support letter on ACSI's Advocacy Efforts page.


Religious Liberty in D.C.
Apr 14, 2015 by P. George Tryfiates

Dear Christian School Community 

Congress is back in session and things are moving fast. I ask you please to take a stand against government coercion and for religious freedom. The District of Columbia has passed two bills which affect Christian schools.  We are asking Congress to use its authority to pass "resolutions of disapproval" of the two laws. The House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform (OGR) will mark up one or both resolutions on Thursday, April 16. 

ACTION REQUEST:  Please call the Committee Members from your state on the list below—especially if one of them is your own Member of Congress. Simply urge them to vote FOR the resolutions of disapproval of the two D.C. laws. The laws are the Human Rights Amendment Act (HRAA) and the Reproductive Health Non-Discrimination Act (RHNDA). 

Call the Capitol Switchboard at 202-225-3121 and ask for the Member's office by name. Tell them who you are and who you represent. Please encourage as many of your own school constituency to make the call as possible. 

If you do not know who your Congressman is, go to www.house.gov and enter your zip code in the box at the top right of the screen.        

  • HRAA removes a law that protected Christian schools if they declined to recognize clubs that contradict their faith-based message (usually on human sexuality). This is aimed mainly at colleges, but can also affect high schools.  HRAA's repeal of the religious exemption will result in a significant and untenable burden on schools' religious freedom to advance their sincerely held religious beliefs regarding human sexuality. 
  • RHNDA removes threatens the liberty of religious schools to uphold their Christian convictions about reproductive issues and even wrongly require religious employers to hire contrary to those convictions. It expands sex discrimination to include "reproductive health decisions" so that a faith-based employer's hands are tied in making employment decisions where an employee contradicts the faith-based message of sanctity of life, for example.
  •  We're going to Congress because it has the authority to disapprove of local laws in the District of Columbia. We don't do this lightly. These laws violate Constitutional religious liberty guarantees and no locality (and no Congress) has the authority to do that. Congress has the unique authority to overturn D.C. laws and should exercise that authority when necessary, as in this case.  We have already made our appeal first to the D.C. Council, but those appeals were not heeded.

More information:  ACSI's letter on the District of Columbia Council's legislation.

Heritage Foundation Issue Brief, "Congress Should Protect Religious Freedom in the District of Columbia".

 House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform
Republican Members by State


Utah
Chairman:  Jason Chaffetz (R-UT-3)
Alabama
Gary J. Palmer (R-AL-6)
Arizona
Paul Gosar (R-AZ-1)
Colorado
Ken Buck (R-CO-4)
Florida
John Mica (R-FL-7)
Ron DeSantis (R-FL-6)
Georgia
Buddy Carter (R-GA-1)
Jody Hice (R-GA-10)
Iowa
Rod Blum (R-IA-1)
Ketucky
Thomas Massie (R-KY-4)
Michigan
Tim Walberg (R-MI-7)
Justin Amash (R-MI-3)
North Carolina
Mark Meadows (R-NC-11)
Mark Walker (R-NC-6)
Ohio
Michael Turner (R-OH-3)
Jim Jordan (R-OH-4)
Oklahoma
Steve Russell (R-OK-5)
South Carolina
Trey Gowdy (R-SC-4)
Mick Mulvaney (R-SC-5)
Tennessee
John Duncan (TN-2)
Scott Desjarlais (R-TN-4)
Texas
Blake Farenthold (R-TX-27)
William Hurd (R-TX-23)
Wisconsin
Glenn Grothman (R-WI-6)
Wyoming
Cynthia Lummis (R-WY)

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Contact Members of Congress
To contact your Congressional officials, visit the U.S. House of Representatives site and enter your state and zip code to locate your U.S. Representative. Or visit the U.S. Senate site to locate your U.S. Senator. Both links will give you mail, telephone, and email contact information.

The Council for American Private Education (CAPE) also provides a Legislative Action Center, where you can find your legislator and actually write a letter or email from this site.  

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