Washington Update (March 21, 2014)

There was palpable excitement in the AAUW office yesterday as we watched President Barack Obama give a speech at a college in Florida. Not only were two AAUW members were in the audience, but an AAUW supporter got to sit down with the president and share her story of balancing work responsibilities while caring for a son with special needs. Very cool indeed!

In his speech, the president talked about equal pay, paid family and medical leave, increasing the minimum wage, and access to higher education. My favorite part was when he called on Congress to pass the Paycheck Fairness Act and “join us in this century.”

The president’s speech launched the White House’s campaign to draw attention to the needs of women and their families. The Department of Labor’s Women’s Bureau will hold a series of events across the country (you’ll hear more from us about this soon) that will culminate in a White House Summit on Working Families on June 23 (announced in last week’s Washington Update).

You know what falls in the middle of this campaign? Equal Pay Day on April 8! Are you ready? If you’re holding an advocacy event or activity, make sure to tell us so we can send you materials, spotlight your event, and more. The deadline to request materials for an Equal Pay Day event is Tuesday, April 1, so be sure to get in touch. Our staff is ready to help!

There’s sure to be more attention paid to the needs of women and their families in the coming month, and I can’t wait. If there’s one thing I can count on, it’s that AAUW members will make themselves heard.

Yours in AAUW,

Lisa M. Maatz
Vice President of Government Relations

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The One Thing You Must Do

Tell your representative to support legislation that would expand federal contracting opportunities for women-owned small businesses. Enabling women to grow their businesses will empower many women to become their own bosses, who are more likely to pay fairly and provide better benefits.

But Because You Want to Do More

Did you know that school discipline can be a Title IX issue? AAUW is co-sponsoring a webinar on April 1 about new Department of Education guidance to school districts on appropriate discipline of students without violating their civil rights. You can learn more and register here.

Get Social

You’ve already shared your March Madness bracket, why not share AAUW’s bracket? It breaks down the gender pay gap for coaches among schools participating in the college basketball tournament. We’ve already successfully called the University of Dayton and Mercer University upsets!

New Resources

AAUW has released the 2014 edition of The Simple Truth about the Gender Pay Gap! This handy guide has updated statistics about the pay gap by race and education levels and details about how the pay gap increases as women get older. Check out the study online, and share this information with others by ordering hard copies from ShopAAUW – all you pay is shipping!

The National Education Policy Center published a new brief that identifies “colorblindness” in classrooms and curricula as harmful to public education. The brief argues that the colorblindness myth can be overcome by following the Common Core standards, criteria which AAUW’s Erin Prangley discusses in her recent blog.

Wondering why the pay gap still persists today? New analysis by the Institute for Women’s Policy Research shows that stagnant wages for women over decades has prevented the gap from closing.


Top Stories

Democrats Call for EO Prohibiting LGBT Workplace Discrimination
On Tuesday, Congressional Democrats signed a letter calling on President Obama to sign an executive order that would prohibit workplace LGBT discrimination by federal contractors. In all, 47 Senators and 148 representatives, signed the letter.

NYC Mayor Signs Paid Sick Leave Bill into Law
Mayor Bill de Blasio signed into law a paid sick leave bill on Thursday. The legislation will now allow up to five sick days with no penalty, and it adds grandparents, grandchildren, and siblings to the list of people who employees may care for during their sick leave.

Women’s Health Care Access at Stake in Supreme Court Case
On Tuesday, March 25 the Supreme Court will review challenges to the contraceptive coverage requirement of the Affordable Care Act (ACA). The cases are brought by Hobby Lobby and Conestoga Wood will ultimately determine whether employers may refuse to provide coverage for contraception based on their personal religious principles.

While these two secular, for-profit organizations argue for religious freedom, those against the law suit argue that a woman has a right to use her insurance plan to access contraception. Lisa Maatz, AAUW Vice President of Government Relations published an article arguing that a for-profit, public organizations’ purpose is not to further their own religious values. AAUW believes bosses shouldn’t have a say in employees’ private lives and health decisions.


State Spotlight: Race to the Top Recipients

States Ask for More Time to Fulfill Promises
Eleven of the twelve states participating in the Obama administration’s Race to the Top grant program requested an additional year to complete program implementation. These states received federal economic stimulus money to innovate their education policy by adopting new math and reading standards, expanding access to STEM resources, and improving school performance levels.


Cheer of the Week

The Obama administration announced that health insurers who provide coverage for heterosexual couples must also provide coverage to married same-sex couples. This announcement followed complaints that insurers were excluding married same-sex couples from benefits.


Jeer of the Week

Rush Limbaugh struck again this week, mocking the idea of a National Women’s History Museum. He said that women already have museum – they’re “called malls.” Limbaugh’s comments were inspired by this week’s announcement that the House of Representatives will vote this year on bipartisan legislation to create a commission to study the possibilities of a National Women’s History Museum on the National Mall.


Bits and Pieces

  • The White House announced this week that 5 million people have enrolled in Affordable Care Act coverage. Open enrollment ends on March 31.
  • The University Dayton’s win over Ohio State might have busted your bracket, but it did not bust AAUW’s NCAA March Madness Bracket. AAUW picked a bracket based upon pay equity-choosing schools with the smallest pay disparity between head coaches of men’s and women’s teams at the same school. Dayton came closest to pay equity, with the coaches of its women’s teams paid 96 percent of what it pays coaches of its men’s teams.
  • The annual Civil Rights Data Collection (CRDC) survey was released today. There were some surprising results in the data, which was collected from the 2011-12 school year. It showed disparities in high school retention, lack of access to college counselors, and lack of access to preschool for much of the country. The CRDC collects information nationally from every public school.
  • On Wednesday, House Majority Leader Eric Cantor (R-VA) announced plans to vote on the bipartisan National Women’s History Museum Act (H.R. 863) sometime this year. The legislation creates a commission that will provide recommendations for the development of a National Women’s History Museum located on the National Mall. AAUW supports this legislation.
  • On Tuesday, Bruce Rauner defeated three state lawmakers, including the state treasurer, to win the GOP nomination for Illinois governor. Rauner will face current Democratic Governor Pat Quinn in November.
  • Pay equity emerged as an issue in the Texas gubernatorial race when Greg Abbott (R) said that he would not have signed the Texas version of the federal Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act. This legislation was vetoed by Governor Rick Perry last year. Lisa Maatz did an interview today in the Houston Chronicle on the subject.
  • Field testing of math and English/language exams tied to Common Core State Standards will begin between March 24 and June 6 in 36 states and the District of Columbia. The exams are a crucial part of assessing what works and what doesn’t in Common Core implementation. In further education news, the Oregon State Board of Education last week adopted the Next Generation Science Standards, making them the 10th state to do so.

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