House Committee on Education and Labor
U.S. House of Representatives

Republicans
Rep. Howard P. “Buck” McKeon
Ranking Member

Fiscally responsible reforms for students, workers and retirees.

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Dear Colleague

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
May 12, 2009

Oppose H.R. 2187 and Reject the Creation of a New Federal School Construction Program
Support Local Control of Education

Dear Colleague:

Tomorrow, the House is expected to consider H.R. 2187, the 21st Century Green High-Performing Public School Facilities Act, which would create a massive and unproven $40 billion federal school construction program.  The bill would nationalize and regulate school construction projects; threaten state, local, and private support for educational infrastructure; jeopardize Congress’ ability to reduce federal spending, pushing the country further into debt; dramatically increase the cost of building schools; and siphon resources from longstanding education priorities without improving academic achievement. 

The condition of our nation’s local public school facilities is an important issue in states and local communities all across the country.  It’s also a topic of great importance in the larger educational debate in terms of student safety, economic and ecological impact on communities, and educational opportunity.  Historically, the federal government has had an extremely limited role in financing school construction projects, which have been a state and local responsibility.  The federal government has deliberately focused its attention and funding on programs that improve student achievement such as Title I grants to local educational agencies to help educate low-income and other disadvantaged students and the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) which helps states and school districts provide special education for children with disabilities.

According to the School Planning and Management's 2009 School Construction Report, school construction valued at an estimated $19.5 billion was completed in 2008.  Of this amount, $13 billion was spent on the design and construction of new schools (accounting for 66.5 percent of the construction dollars), $3.2 billion (16.6 percent) on additions to existing buildings, and just under $3.3 billion (16.9 percent) on retrofit and modernization of existing structures.  According to the report, the percentage of construction dollars spent on new buildings was the highest since 1979.  During the past seven years, school districts have completed construction projects totaling more than $144 billion.

States and local communities have the primary responsibility to set public policy over education, particularly public elementary and secondary education.  The federal government is responsible for only about nine percent of all K-12 spending, with state governments contributing 47 percent of funding to public school systems, followed by local sources at 44 percent.  Congress should not support legislation that will undermine the state and local educational agencies’ responsibility for school construction and diminish support for programs that serve disadvantaged students.

I urge you to oppose H.R. 2187, which would federalize the maintenance, modernization, and repair of the school facilities that play such an integral role in individual communities across this nation.  The federal investment in education must remain focused on ensuring educational opportunity and excellence for all students. For more information on the bill, please contact the Education and Labor Committee Republican staff at x5-6558.

Sincerely,

/s/

Howard P. “Buck” McKeon (R-CA)
Senior Republican Member
Education and Labor Committee