Funding our local schools is key issue

Published 1:49 am Saturday, September 26, 2009

Last week, I voted for the Student Aid and Fiscal Responsibility Act. The bill ends federal subsidies in private student lending, thereby saving taxpayers money, and invests those savings into schools and students. H.R. 3221 is estimated to save $87 billion over 10 years.

The savings created by the bill are invested into increased funding for Pell Grants, early childhood education, Historically Black Colleges and Universities, school construction, community colleges, and $10 billion towards needed deficit reduction. The school construction section of the bill includes a provision that I had previously sponsored, which provides funds to schools affected by natural disasters.

As someone who came from humble beginnings, the education I received has proven invaluable and helped me get to where I am today. We have many excellent schools in the 2nd District that are able to open doors for our children. In fact, Brewbaker Tech Montgomery and WS Harlan Elementary in Covington County were two of only five schools in Alabama to recently receive a national “Blue Ribbon School” award from the Department of Education.

Additionally, I have made education a top priority as your congressman and secured funding in House appropriations bills for important projects at schools in our around our district, including Auburn, Auburn-Montgomery, Troy, and George Wallace Community College.

Specifically, the $87 billion in savings created by the bill will increase the maximum Pell Grant scholarship from $5,550 to $6,900. It also allocates $9.5 billion in funds to community colleges and technical schools. Additionally, the bill creates an $8 billion fund for early childhood education. The Early Learning Challenge Fund will award grants to states to implement comprehensive standards-based early childhood learning programs.

Finally, H.R. 3221 allocates $6.6 billion for school modernization and renovation. Of that money, 5 percent is reserved for school districts recovering from natural disasters or located in economically challenged areas, such as Enterprise City Schools and schools around southeast Alabama suffering from recent flooding and winds. This language is the same as an amendment I offered earlier this Congress. That bill is currently stalled in the Senate.

Small towns across America are simply not equipped to rebuild a mainstay in their communities such as schools when they are destroyed by natural disasters. I hope this bill will move forward in the Senate to give school districts in southeast Alabama one more venue for making their systems whole again. This is a wise use of taxpayer dollars.