President Obama Proposes Major Investment in Teachers and Facilities

Last week in a nationally-televised speech to members of Congress and the American people, President Obama shared his plan for $447 billion in tax cuts and government spending to boost the nation’s lagging economic recovery. He called on lawmakers to put politics aside and work together to solve the jobs crisis, with specific programs that could positively impact the Chicago School Supply community. In case you missed it, we wanted to share with you some of the highlights:

Modernizing At Least 35,000 Public Schools – From Science Labs and Internet-Ready Classrooms to Renovated Facilities ($30 billion)

The President’s plan calls for substantial investments in our school infrastructure, modernizing and upgrading America’s public schools to meet 21st century needs. The cost of maintaining more than 100,000 public schools is substantial for already overstretched districts. The accumulated backlog of deferred maintenance and repair amounts to at least $270 billion. Schools spend over $6 billion annually on their energy bills, more than they spend on computers and textbooks combined. For children in the nation’s poorest districts, these deferred projects too often mean overcrowded schools with crumbling ceilings and a lack of the basic wiring infrastructure needed for computers, projectors, and other technology. The President’s plan will invest $30 billion in enhancing the condition of our nation’s public schools – with $25 billion going to K-12 schools, including a priority for rural schools and dedicated funding for Bureau of Indian Education funded schools, and $5 billion to community colleges (including tribal colleges). The range of critical repairs and needed construction projects would put hundreds of thousands of Americans back to work.

Safer, Healthier, and Technologically-Advanced Schools of the Future

Permissible uses of funds would include a range of emergency repair and renovation projects, greening and energy efficiency upgrades, asbestos abatement and removal, and modernization efforts to build new science and computer labs and to upgrade technology in our schools. Local districts will also be able to put these funds to work to invest in upgrades to allow schools to continue to serve as centers of the community – from improvements to school ground outdoor learning and play areas to upgrades to shared spaces for adult vocational and job development centers. These efforts will not only make our schools safer and healthier learning environments, but also ensure that our schools are fully equipped to teach 21st century skills in math, science, and other technical fields and to serve as effective centers for workforce training and development.

A Focus on Schools in Need

To ensure that schools in the most disrepair will be able to make necessary enhancements, 40 percent of the funds will be directed toward the 100 largest high-need public school districts. This investment is particularly important as national surveys have found that the schools with the highest proportion of lower-income and minority students are least likely to have functional laboratory equipment. The remaining 60 percent will be directed towards states to allocate, and states would have flexibility to use those funds to service other high-need districts, including schools in rural areas.

Modernizing Community Colleges to Train a 21st Century Workforce

America’s community college system was built up over 40 years ago to support education and training activities of that time. These colleges are in desperate need of upgrades to ensure that facilities are equipped to meet the demands of the 21st century workforce. Deferred maintenance at community colleges is estimated to be $100 billion. As part of this school modernization initiative, the President’s plan proposes $5 billion of investments for facilities modernization needs at community colleges. Investment in modernizing community colleges fills a key resource gap, and ensures these local, bedrock education
institutions have the facilities and equipment to address current workforce demands in today’s highly technical and growing fields.

While there are some significant differences in how many Americans believe the government should act to jump-start the economy and you may not agree with the president’s plan in its entirety, we do ask that you call on your Congressperson to support the much-needed funding for educational facilities and teachers. Chicago School Supply will keep you updated on any legislative action resulting from last week’s address.

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