Legislative Watch – November 1, 2023

NEA Action on Department of Labor Overtime Rules

The U.S. Department of Labor is proposing to expand overtime benefits, which are governed by the Federal Labor Standards Act (FLSA), to include earnings up to $55,000. Currently, the overtime provision covers workers earning $35,000 and below. This change would impact an estimated 3.6 million workers nationwide, including education support professionals (ESPs) who make below $55,000.

Unfortunately, teachers and faculty would not benefit from this proposed change. Under the current and proposed rules, all teachers are exempted from overtime pay even if they earn a salary below the threshold. The only other workers who are excluded from the FLSA rules on overtime pay protections are doctors and lawyers. Both professions earn significantly more than teachers.

Excluding teachers from the FLSA’s protections will only serve to exacerbate the teacher shortage crisis at a time when teacher turnover has hit an all-time high. One of the main issues for the teacher shortage across the state is low pay and the “teacher pay penalty,” which is the gap between what teachers earn compared to similarly educated professionals.  Per an Economic Policy Institute Report, Ohio teachers make 14 percent on average less than those in similarly educated professions. And we know that teaching is not a profession contained only in a 40-hour work week. Many teachers work well past their contract workday. According to USDOE data, all full-time public-school teachers spend on average 52 hours per week on “teaching and all other school related activities,” while contracts only require 38.5 hours of work on average. This means that teachers do not receive compensation for a significant number of hours they spend working beyond their normal workday.

While the proposed rule has many benefits, it should also include overtime protections for classroom teachers and faculty to help close the teacher pay gap and address the teacher staffing crisis! Click here to tell the Department of Labor that it is unfair to continue excluding dedicated teachers and faculty from overtime pay.

U.S. Senator Brown Introduces Act Expanding Access to Locally Sourced Food in Schools

A group of bi-partisan legislators, including U.S. Senator Sherrod Brown (D-Ohio), introduced the Farm to School Act, which would support farmers and bring more fresh, locally grown foods to school lunchrooms across the country.

Senator Brown, joined by Maine U.S. Senator Susan Collins (R) and Virgin Island Delegate, U.S. Representative Stacey Plaskett (D), introduced the Act during National Farm to School Month.  In a press release from Senator Brown’s office on October 25, 2023, Senator Brown emphasized the importance of passing the Act for both farms and schools in Ohio.

“Ohio farmers grow some of the best produce in the country and farm to school programs help connect students with those fresh foods…[this] legislation will increase locally grown foods in our school lunchrooms while strengthening farms and rural communities in Ohio and across the country.”

Read the full release here.

Earlier this year, OEA and coalition partners were instrumental in expanding access to free school meals for thousands of Ohio students with the passage of HB 33, the state’s biennial operating budget for Fiscal Years 2024 and 2025.  Under HB 33, students on the reduced meal schedule now qualify for free meals.  While this is a step in the right direction, OEA is committed to continuing to expand access to free meals for Ohio’s students. 

Senator Brown’s Farm to School Act supports our effort to expand student access to nutritious, free meals by ensuring that students have access to locally sourced, nutritious foods from Ohio farmers. The Act, if passed, would increase the Farm to School Grant Program funding from $5 million to $15 million per year, increase the maximum grant award to $500,000, and reduce barriers for applying for the grant by permitting the USDA the authority to modify or waive the current 25% non-federal matching requirement. Furthermore, the Act would help grantees improve procurement and distribution of local food and expand the scope of the program to include pre-schools, summer food service, and after-school programs.

A one-pager on the Farm to School Act of 2023 may be downloaded by clicking here.

U.S. Senator J.D. Vance Joins Senator Brown as a Co-Sponsor of Act to Repeal GPO/WEP

Ohio’s junior Senator, J.D. Vance, signed onto the bi-partisan Government Pension Offset/Windfall Elimination Provision (GPO/WEP) repeal legislation, known as the Social Security Fairness Act (S. 597/ H.R. 82), after meeting with OEA’s NEA Directors in a meeting at the end of September. 

The Act, sponsored in the Senate by U.S. Senator Sherrod Brown (D-Ohio), would fully repeal the GPO and WEP. GPO and WEP impact more than 2.5 million Americans, and over 160,000 Ohioans, including many educators and their families.  WEP reduces Social Security benefits of educators who may have entered the education profession as a second career or that are compelled to take a part-time or summer job to make ends meet. GPO reduces (or eliminates) the Social Security spousal or survivor benefits of people who also get a pension based on federal, state, or local government employment (this includes educators in OPERS, SERS, and STRS) not covered by social security. To find out more about how GPO and WEP impacts workers in Ohio and nationally, please visit NEA’s resource library. GPO and WEP discourage people from becoming educators, especially those in mid-career, who stand to lose their Social Security benefits they have already earned.

OEA thanks U.S. Senator Sherrod Brown for continuing to be a strong advocate for educator retirement security and applauds U.S. Senator Vance and other members of the Ohio Congressional Delegation for signing onto the Act to repeal GPO and WEP. However, there are still four members of Ohio’s U.S. House Delegation that have yet to sign onto the legislation as a co-sponsor. These members are U.S. Representatives Warren Davidson (R-8), Jim Jordan (R-4), Bob Latta (R-5), and Brad Wenstrup (R-2). Please email your legislator to either urge their continued support of or to co-sponsor the Social Security Fairness act to fully repeal both GPO and WEP by clicking here.

 For an archive of past Legislative Watch releases, visit the Legislative Watch archive.