Dear Republican Colleague:
The House is scheduled to vote this morning on 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.
Instead of considering legislation to help states and school districts ensure that all students receive a high quality education, the Democratic leadership has brought forth a bill that will give the federal government responsibility for funding and regulating school construction. The bill would nationalize school construction projects by forcing states and school districts to meet a variety of impractical requirements and guidelines set by federal bureaucrats. These restrictive federal regulations will needlessly increase project costs and provide less flexibility for states and school districts to meet the needs of their students. Quite simply, H.R. 2187 is a bad bill that undermines the basic premise of elementary and secondary education: that education policy should be set at the local level by teachers, parents, and superintendents.
Just consider the impact this new program will have on state and local school districts:
- Restrictive mandates govern how states and local school districts can spend their money, right down to the type of flooring that can be installed. The new federal school construction program authorized under H.R. 2187 contains 14 specific mandates on states and local school districts, regardless of whether or not such activities are in the best interest of students, parents, and teachers in the local community. These mandates will force state officials to spend their money on developing databases chronicling the energy uses and carbon footprint of each school and creating guidelines for school buildings to meet on everything from where a school should be located to what type of outdoor lighting and landscaping should be in place. It would force local superintendents to comply with so-called “green” regulations, restricting the type of materials that could be used to modernize or repair public elementary and secondary schools, including prescribing the type of flooring that can be installed. The “improvements” are mandated even though independent research shows that green schools cost more to build – more than 6 percent above regular schools -- and use more energy – about 25 percent – than non-green schools in the same district.
- Flawed “prevailing wage” mandates deny jobs to non-union businesses and workers while driving up construction costs for schools. The new federal school construction program envisioned under H.R. 2187 will be subject to the requirements of the Depression-era Davis-Bacon Act, which requires construction projects be paid using flawed “prevailing wages” and favors the hiring of union workers. It also places non-union small businesses and the workers they employ, including many minority and women-owned businesses, at a significant disadvantage. As documented by numerous government studies, this requirement will raise the cost of school construction by more than 25 percent when compared to similar projects completed under market conditions. That’s money that could otherwise go toward putting additional teachers in the classroom.
- Federal intrusion in this area could undermine efforts at the state and local levels and in the private sector to adequately fund school construction. States and local communities enjoy the rights and responsibilities of setting public policy over education, particularly public elementary and secondary education. During the past seven years, states and local areas have spent more than $144 billion on school construction projects. 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. This 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.
Congress should not federalize the modernization and repair of the school facilities that play such an integral role in individual communities across this nation. I urge you to oppose H.R. 2187 and reject the creation of a new federal school construction program so that we can keep school construction costs affordable for states and local communities around the nation. For more information on the bill, please contact the Education and Labor Committee Republican staff at x5-6558.
Howard P. “Buck” McKeon (R-CA)
Senior Republican Member
Education and Labor Committee