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Letter to the House urging sponsorship of the America's Better Classrooms Act

May 07, 2007

Dear Representative:

On behalf of the National Education Association's (NEA) 3.2 million members, we urge you to join Representatives Rangel (D-NY), Ramstad (R-MN), and Etheridge (D-NC) as an original cosponsor of the America's Better Classroom Act. This important legislation will assist states in meeting the school facility needs of local communities by providing resources to build, repair, and renovate America's schools. 

America's schools are in desperate need of repair and renovation. Across the country, students learn in overcrowded classrooms with peeling paint, leaking roofs, and faulty wiring. Some schools hold classes in "temporary" trailers, converted closets, and hallways. Too many students attend schools that lack basic electrical and telecommunications equipment necessary for connection to the Internet or the use of new education technologies. Students attending public schools in less than adequate condition face not only direct impacts on their academic achievement, but also significant dangers to their personal health and safety. 

There is a growing body of research that supports the relationship between the condition of a school's facilities and student achievement.  A recent study (The Walls Speak: The Interplay of Quality Facilities, School Climate, and Student Achievement , 2006) found a positive correlation between a school facility's condition, school climate, and student achievement. Another study (The Impact of School Environments , 2005) analyzed 25 years of research and found that the majority supported the relationship between school quality and student performance. Conversely, a study of Houston schools (The Wise Man Builds His House Upon the Rock, 2004) demonstrated how poor school conditions related to poor school performance.

Unsafe and inadequate school facilities also impact classroom order and discipline. Modern, safe environments encourage learning and discourage disruptive behavior, while overcrowded classrooms make it more difficult to maintain classroom order.

The America's Better Classroom Act will provide for the issuance of more than $25 billion in bonds for school modernization and new construction projects nationwide. Under the bill, the federal government would provide tax credits to bond holders in lieu of interest payments, and the state or school district would only be responsible for repaying the principal. This would save millions of dollars in interest payments for states and districts and help communities stretch limited resources to pay for additional school facility projects and essential education programs.
To cosponsor or for questions, please contact Pam Murray or Aruna Kalyanam at the Ways and Means Committee; Karin Hope in Congressman Ramstad's office, or Pat Devlin in the office of Congressman Etheridge.

We thank you for your consideration of our views on this important issue.


Diane Shust, Director of Government Relations

Randall Moody, Manager of Federal Advocacy