Washington Update (March 7, 2014)

Sometimes our work feels like…well, it feels like work. The hours can be long, naysayers can be exasperating, and policymakers can be truculent (to put it politely). I know you’re like me in that sometimes you feel the need to be inspired, and be reminded why we do this work.

I got my socks knocked off in inspiration this week, and I want to share it with you. As you may know, AAUW recently launched a “Title IX Champions Award” for members who are advancing Title IX’s mission of equity for women and girls in education. This week, we recognized Priya and Kavya Ramamoorthy, 16-year-old sisters in Texas. 

It’s an amazing story — so great that it’s also our “Cheer of the Week.” When they were in eighth grade, the sisters were looking for a project for a National History Day competition. A classmate’s cousin told them that her swim team didn’t get the same opportunities as the boys’ team. The girls decided to make their project about sex discrimination in school, and they contacted AAUW for ideas and resources. The website they created for the competition won first prize in the Junior Website Category. During their victory trip to Washington, D.C., to collect the medal, they toured AAUW, and I got the chance to meet them as well as their very proud parents and teacher.

Meeting these girls was so inspiring. It’s why I do this work — to open new doors for others — and I suspect it’s why you do this work as well. Because of your support of AAUW, we’ve helped broaden the horizons and the dreams of Priya and Kavya and millions of other women and girls. I thank Priya and Kavya for their leadership, and I thank you for your continuing support.

Yours in AAUW,
Lisa M. Maatz
Vice President of Public Policy

Subscribe to Washington Update

The One Thing You Must Do
This morning’s jobs numbers revealed that 3.8 million people have been unemployed for at least 27 weeks. Yet since December 2013, more than 2 million long-term unemployed people have lost access to extended unemployment benefits and 72,000 more people lose these benefits every week. Tell Congress to extend unemployment benefits. 

But Because You Want to Do More
In addition to reinstating support for long-term unemployed people, we also need to ensure that people with jobs are able to make ends meet. The federal minimum wage of $7.25/hour is far from sufficient. Urge Congress to raise the federal minimum wage this year!

Get Social
Talk about blast from the past: Check out this map, circa 1914, of early states that allowed women to vote! Share the map on Facebook or Twitter with the following post:

Did your state grant women the right to vote before it was cool? Find out here: http://wapo.st/1gMW3VV  #fem2 #suffrage #AAUW

New Resources

  • Did you know that less than a quarter of U.S. food service workers have access to paid sick days? Learn more with the fact sheet released by the Institute for Women’s Policy Research this week.
  • The Center for American Progress released a report last week detailing the disparate impact that harsh school discipline policies and poor school climate have on lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender youth. These youth are funneled into the "school-to-prison pipeline" at significantly higher rates than non-LGBT youth.

Top Stories

February Jobs Numbers Exceed Expectations
The Department of Labor announced this morning that in February the U.S. economy added 175,000 jobs, exceeding the expectations of most economists. The overall unemployment rate rose to 6.7 percent, and the unemployment rate for women remained at 5.9 percent. The number of long-term unemployed (those who have been unemployed for at least 27 weeks) increased to 3.8 million — 37 percent of the total unemployed population.

President Obama Releases 2015 Budget
The White House released President Obama’s $3.9 trillion budget for fiscal year 2015. The proposed budget includes tax changes targeted at the middle class and increased education spending. Unfortunately, the proposal would decrease funding for AAUW priority programs, such as the Department of Labor’s Women’s Bureau and the Women in Apprenticeships and Nontraditional Occupations (WANTO) program.

Senate Fails to Advance Military Justice Improvement Act
On Thursday, the Senate voted on two pieces of legislation to address sexual assault in the military. A bill sponsored by Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY), which would remove sexual assault and other crimes from the chain of command, failed to advance on a procedural vote (55-45). Legislation offered by Sen. Claire McCaskill (D-MO), which would keep the chain of command intact, unanimously passed the procedural hurdle and is scheduled for a full vote next week.

State Spotlight: Texas

Primaries Kick Off with the Lone Star State
On Tuesday, Texas’ primary ended with Sen. John Cornyn (R) and Rep. Pete Sessions (R-32) surviving conservative challenges and moving along to the general election, where they will fight to keep their seats in Congress. After winning their respective primaries, Republican Attorney General Greg Abbott and Democratic state Sen. Wendy Davis will face each other in November’s gubernatorial race. The next primary for the November 2014 elections will be in Illinois on March 18.

Cheer of the Week

On Thursday, we were introduced to the next generation of AAUW Title IX advocates: 16-year-olds Priya and Kavya Ramamoorthy. These two girls were awarded the newly-established Title IX Champions award, which celebrates the efforts of AAUW members and supporters in advancing Title IX. The Texas girls created a website devoted to educating other students about Title IX’s history and value.

Jeer of the Week

On Wednesday the House held its 50th vote to change portions of the Affordable Care Act. Twenty-seven Democrats joined the GOP to pass the bill, which would delay the individual mandate penalty by one year.

Bits and Pieces

  • The College Board, the organization that administers the SAT, announced this week that the test will undergo significant changes by the spring of 2016. Along with many procedural updates, the test makers intend to align the substance of the Common Core Standards adopted by 45 states and the District of Columbia.
  • The Obama administration announced this week that it will allow some health plans that fall short of Affordable Care Act coverage requirements to be offered until 2017. It will be up to the discretion of each state whether to allow these non-qualifying plans to be sold in its insurance marketplace.
  • A recent study found that female entrepreneurs typically pay themselves less than male entrepreneurs when beginning a business venture. This initial pay gap, averaging around 20 percent, is comparable to the gap between male and female full-time workers in the broader economy.
  • The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) announced this week that it will allow generic versions of emergency contraception to be sold without a prescription or age restriction. Previously, the FDA had granted Teva Pharmaceuticals, the makers of Plan B One-Step, the exclusive right to sell emergency contraceptives over-the-counter and without age restrictions. This decision is expected to make emergency contraception available at lower prices.

Read past issues of Washington Update