Thursday, February 12, 2009
School construction funds blocked in stimulus bill
Well, you win some and you lose some.
The deal was made yesterday on the federal stimulus package. According to the WSJ, the "state stabilization fund" was increased to $53.6 billion from $44 billion, which is still far less than the $95 billion the House had originally proposed. There are estimates are that about $1 billion of that may come to NYC schools, which will help prevent massive teacher layoffs, though gaps in education funding will likely remain -- unless we continue to fight for restorations in the state and city budgets.
The biggest disappointment is that all targeted funds for new school construction were eliminated -- though districts can take funds out of the stabilization program to modernize or repair schools if they so choose.
According to the NY Times, the insistence of the GOP "moderates" about eliminating the school construction funds almost blocked the deal from happening:
House Democrats, angry over some of the cuts, particularly for school construction, initially balked at the deal and delayed a final meeting on Wednesday afternoon between House and Senate negotiators. ....Ms. Pelosi said at a news conference that the delay helped House Democrats win some final concessions, including an agreement to let states use some money in a fiscal stabilization fund for school renovations.
But not to build new schools.
For some reason, the GOP Senators were especially adamant that no federal funds should go to new school construction, which Republican members have been opposed to ever since the 1950's. During that era, President Eisenhower proposed a federal role in school construction, just as the feds were helping to build roads, bridges, etc. -- yet his own party blocked this from occurring.
Meanwhile, according to EdWeek, Klein was up in DC, emphasizing the need for federal funding for "data systems" and teacher performance pay! Which shows you where his priorities lie.
So, thanks to those of you who called and emailed -- we were partially successful, and at least we got the message across that NYC parents care about class size, new school construction and preventing layoffs of teachers.
Let's harness that energy in the weeks to come towards restoring the cuts in the state and city's education budget, and especially, to improve the administration's proposed capital budget for schools which remains pitifully inadequate.
See this earlier post by Joan Walsh in Salon, Party on GOP, bemoaning the fervent opposition of the Republican party to building new schools, despite the crying need for them. What could be more Un-American?