Concerned Women for America Legislative Action Committee (CWALAC) is targeting support on education legislation towards the Student Empowerment Act, S. 157 and the Equal Campus Access Act, S. 1168. CWALAC is ensuring that your voice is heard so that families have the flexibility to spend money they’ve saved for their children’s education to best fit their children’s individual needs and to make sure religious groups don’t have to worry about losing First Amendment rights when they step onto a college campus. Currently, we are working on getting more cosponsors in the Senate for both bills.
The Student Empowerment Act, H.R. 621, enables parents to spend the money they have set aside for their children’s education in a way that best meets the individual needs of each child. It allows the money to be spent on K-12 educational expenses like educational therapies for children with disabilities, tutoring, testing fees, book, tuition, and more, to be paid from a 529 savings account, regardless of if that child is in public, private, religious, or homeschool institutions.
The Student Empowerment Act was initially included in the Setting Every Community Up for Retirement Enhancement, or the Secure Act, and unanimously approved by the House Ways and Means Committee. But the Student Empowerment Act was taken out of the base bill by House Speaker Nancy Pelosi at the request of the teachers’ unions. Despite Pelosi’s action on the bill, members on both sides of the aisle, as demonstrated by the Ways and Means Committee, understand parents know their child best and deserve the flexibility to tailor services to their child’s unique specifications. The bill, introduced by Senator Cruz (R-Texas), is currently with the Senate Finance Committee. We have sent a letter of support to the Senate Finance Committee, as well as a request for cosponsors to the entire Senate. Currently, our efforts are focused on getting more cosponsors.
The Equal Campus Access Act, introduced by Senator Blunt (R-Missouri), ensures that faith-based student groups have the same rights and protections as other student organizations at public colleges and universities. This bill protects First Amendment liberties for the students who have lost access to rights, benefits, and privileges for their clubs. “Thirty-one states have known incidences where religious student organizations lost those rights”. Public universities do not have the power to repress the First Amendment rights of its students. This bill also affirms the right of faith-based organizations to require a leader to adhere to their club’s beliefs. This allows those organizations to have a faith-based leader without repercussions.
The Supreme Court affirmed the Equal Access Act as constitutional in 1984 in the 8-1 decision Mergens v. Board of Education. The decision stated public schools cannot discriminate against religious extracurricular clubs. The Equal Campus Access Act is merely an expansion from public high schools to college campuses. This is not the promotion of religion by public universities; it is the First Amendment right to the free exercise of religion. Public universities must only treat religious students and clubs equally to other students and clubs—no more, no less. The latest action regarding this bill is that it has been referred to the committee on Health, Labor and Pensions, otherwise known as the HELP Committee. We are lobbying Senators to cosponsor this bill and partnering with coalition organizations to demonstrate a multi-faith front of support to the Senate.
These actions taken by Concerned Women for America Legislative Action Committee aim to protect the children of every parent and help ensure First Amendment rights. We need you and your voice to be heard to make sure these bills pass. Please encourage your senators to cosponsor both the Student Empowerment Act (S. 157) and the Campus Equal Access Act (S. 1168).