It was no surprise that the 2009 Recovery Act included provisions to fund school construction projects. Those projects create well-paid jobs, invest in our future, and enhance competitiveness. But with most of the stimulus money spent, the program must be renewed in order to continue.
The Rebuilding America’s Schools Act, sponsored by Congressman Charles Rangel, would do just that. This legislation was highlighted in the Congressional Progressive Caucus’ Rebuilding the American Dream Framework, crafted after their Speak out for Good Jobs tour this past summer.
90 Second Summaries: Season 2, Episode 22
H.R. 2394: Rebuilding America’s Schools Act
Sponsor: Rep. Charles Rangel (D-NY15)
Click here to download this summary (pdf)
Cosponsors: 1 (Rep. Jared Polis (D-CO2)). Number of cosponsors expected to grow in coming weeks. Up-to-date list at: http://1.usa.gov/n0mbxk
Status: Referred to Ways & Means Committee. No action scheduled. Is unlikely to move as a stand-alone bill, but may be included in a larger jobs package similar to President Obama’s American Jobs Act.
Senate Companion: S. 796, sponsored by Sen. Jay Rockefeller (D-WV). 4 D cosponsors. In Finance Committee, no action scheduled.
Purpose: If there is such a thing as a prototypical economic stimulus project, construction and modernization of school buildings must be considered part of that category. It serves multiple purposes – creating well-paid local jobs that cannot be outsourced, investing in our children’s future, and enhancing long-run economic competitiveness. Thus, it is no surprise that an instrument to finance school building upgrades, known as Qualified School Construction Bonds, was included in the 2009 Recovery Act. However, with employment numbers still anemic and the stimulus money virtually all spent, the program must be reauthorized and extended in order to continue.
Meanwhile, in reaction to the excessive focus on austerity in Washington amidst a sluggish economy, the Congressional Progressive Caucus embarked on a Speakout for Good Jobs Now listening tour over the summer. As a result of their encounters, they have crafted the “Rebuild the American Dream Framework”. H.R. 2394 is one of the highlighted bills in this agenda.
Summary: The Rebuilding America’s Schools Act renews and strengthens two major school construction bond programs through FY2015. Specifically, it:
• Extends the Qualified School Construction Bonds stimulus provision, which allocates $11 billion/year for the rehabilitation, repair, equipping of existing school buildings as well as land purchase and construction of new schools, through 2015. The program allows school districts to borrow money at zero interest, as the federal government offers a tax credit to lenders in lieu of interest payments.
• Extends the Qualified Zone Academy Bonds provision, originally enacted in 1997, through 2015 at the stimulus-enhanced level of $1.4 billion/year.
• Modifies the QZAB program to allow construction of new schools and waive a 10% private match in certain circumstances in order to increase funding flexibility.
Note: President Obama has likewise called for school modernization in his new American Jobs Act. That provision goes further than H.R. 2394, offering $25 billion of direct grant money instead of a more indirect bonding mechanism.
CBO Score: None provided.
Supporters: most Democrats, President Obama, teachers and local school districts, etc.
• Supporters see this as a win-win proposal, creating jobs in the short-term while investing in future prosperity and global competitiveness through a stronger education system.
Opponents: most Republicans, Tea Party activists
• Opponents view this project as another in a long line of failed stimulus proposals. They believe only the private sector, not government, can create jobs, and the best way to turn the economy around is to shrink the government.
Full bill text: http://www.govtrack.us/congress/billtext.xpd?bill=h112-2394
Official CRS summary: http://thomas.loc.gov/cgi-bin/bdquery/z?d112:HR02394:@@@D&summ2=m&
Rep. Rangel press release on the bill: http://rangel.house.gov/news/2011/07/rangel-urges-rebuilding-of-american-schools.shtml
Congressional Progressive Caucus jobs plan: http://cpc.grijalva.house.gov/index.cfm?sectionid=78§iontree=5,78
Article about Obama plan: http://whitehouse.blogs.cnn.com/2011/09/13/pres-obama-sells-jobs-plan-school-modernization/