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 13, 2009

Don’t Undermine Efforts at the State and Local Level to Fund School Construction
Oppose H.R. 2187

Dear Colleague:

Today, the House is scheduled to consider H.R. 2187, the 21st Century Green High-Performing Public School Facilities Act.  The bill would create a massive and unproven $40 billion federal school construction program, which threatens to undermine efforts at the state and local level and in the private sector to adequately fund school construction. 

The condition of our nation’s local public school facilities is an important issue in states and local communities all across the country -- and states and local communities have responded.

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.

The creation of a new federal school construction program threatens this state, local, and private support for educational infrastructure.  Inserting the federal government into an area traditionally handled locally raises the possibility that states, local communities, and private sector investors could back away from their responsibility to build and maintain safe and modern schools.  H.R. 2187 represents a massive and unprecedented shift in the education funding dynamic, with the federal government threatening to usurp responsibility for building schools, arguably one of the most fundamental responsibilities of states and communities.

States and local communities enjoy the rights and responsibilities of setting 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 state and local educational agencies’ responsibility for school construction, particularly when the legislation is likely to drive up overall costs without having any meaningful impact on our educational infrastructure needs or on student academic achievement.

I urge you to oppose H.R. 2187, which would federalize modernization, renovation, and repair of the school facilities that play such an integral role in individual communities across this nation.  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