From Capitol to Campus
Congress began 2010 in high gear, particularly with health care reform and economic recovery legislation. Consideration of these bills was expected to be completed by this month. Waiting in the wings is the Senate’s version of the Student Aid and Fiscal Responsibility Act (SAFRA), which passed the House last fall and converts federal student loans into direct loans from the federal government, bypassing banks and using the savings to increase Pell grants and key funds for community colleges through the President’s proposed “American Graduation Initiative.” The next big push involves the Jobs for Main Street Act of 2010. The bill provides $154 billion overall to retain and create jobs as well as to extend unemployment insurance and other “safety net” programs. The proposal includes a pool of funds for construction projects ($48 billion) that could create opportunities for higher education. But more directly focused on education is the $23 billion Education Jobs Fund.
NEA is advocating for an education jobs fund to maintain the investment in public education and save and create jobs during 2010 and 2011, as well as an infrastructure investment consisting of a dedicated funding stream for school construction and modernization, including projects at public two— and four-year institutions of higher education. To these ends, a House bill passed with funding for both priorities.
The House version of the education jobs fund—modeled as NEA requested—includes no wait time to draw up contracts or acquire materials. The Senate anticipates action on its version of the bill this month. See more at www.nea.org.