If there’s one stimulus provision cut by Sens. Ben Nelson (D-NE) and Susan Collins (R-ME) that could stage a national comeback, the proposed $20 billion investment in school construction may just be it. Aside from quickly putting people to work in decent-paying jobs, ...
If there’s one stimulus provision cut by Sens. Ben Nelson (D-NE) and Susan Collins (R-ME) that could stage a national comeback, the proposed $20 billion investment in school construction may just be it. Aside from quickly putting people to work in decent-paying jobs, building better school libraries and science labs is equivalent to a down-payment on the sort of innovation it’ll take to rebuild the economy in the long-term.
But members of the Senate chose to ignore that yesterday when they officially gutted the school construction line-item from the compromise version of the stimulus package. Despite the $839 million setback for Illinois schools, education advocates -- from President Obama on down to Illinois non-profits -- are rallying members of the Senate to restore the money. Encouragingly, Education Secretary Arne Duncan will take his appeal on the road today. And the push from the grassroots is on, as organizations like the Healthy Schools Campaign (a non-profit that’s working to green Chicago Public Schools) are flooding inboxes with email actions alerts such as this one:
Eliminating school funding – which would be used to repair schools in desperate need of maintenance and develop our infrastructure of sustainable buildings while providing much-needed jobs – is completely counter to the goals of economic recovery and investment in a healthy, sustainable future.
A report issued last month by the House Committee on Labor and Education spells out how much is at stake for individual districts under a proposal already approved by the House. You can use the table below to find your own district and see how much construction money was originally on the table (click the button in the upper-right corner to expand):
As we’ve noted before, the capital money will bring relief to hundreds of school districts across the state. A joint capital needs assessment published by state agencies last year illustrates the crisis our schools face: as of 2007, $2.9 billion worth of repairs were needed just to bring Illinois schools up to code. Another $5.2 billion was cited for general repair and remodeling projects to retrofit schools for the 21st century.
These needs have been ignored for too long.
Image of Chicago's Dyett High School used under a Creative Commons license by Flickr user reallyboring.