Tuesday, September 13, 2011

Texas schools could get $2.3 billion from Jobs Bill

 President Obama is crisscrossing the country trying to sell his $447 billion jobs bill to the American people. The bill, which would send an estimated $85 billion to state and local governments, went to Congress on Monday.

The American Jobs Bill includes a proposal to put workers back on the job by rebuilding and modernizing schools across the country. In Ohio Tuesday, the president talked about the need for new school infrastructure, particularly in some places where students study in 100-year-old buildings.

“Some of the schools, the ventilation is so poor it can make students sick. How do we expect our kids to do their very best in a situation like that,” he said. “Every child deserves a great school and we can give it to them, but we’ve got to pass this bill.”

The American Association of School Administrators released a report Tuesday that details the benefits of the program for each state as well as the 100 largest high-need public school districts, which will receive funds directly. Texas has the highest number of those districts of any state with 19 on the list to receive money directly. Florida has the second highest number with 14, and California is third with 11.

According to AASA, the state of Texas would be eligible for $2.3 billion to invest in K-12 infrastructure. Those 19 high-need districts would be eligible for $1.2 billion.

From the AASA: 
“The President is proposing a $25 billion investment in school infrastructure that will modernize at least 35,000 public schools.  This investment will create jobs, while improving classrooms and upgrading our schools to meet 21st century needs. It also includes a priority for rural schools and dedicated funding for Bureau of Indian Education-funded schools. Funds can be used for 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 the technology infrastructure in our schools.”

 The average public school building in the United States is over 40 years old, according to AASA, and many are much older. Many of them are in desperate need of modernizing to make them more efficient and provide the necessary space and infrastructure for a 21st century education. Schools spend more than $6 billion each year on energy bills – more than they spend on computers and textbooks combined.

With schools slashing budgets across the country, the backlog of deferred maintenance and repair projects in schools is at least $270 billion, AASA estimates. 

The American Jobs Bill includes:

$25 billion in funds will be used to upgrade existing public school facilities. $10 billion will be directed toward 100 largest high-need public school districts. $15 billion will be directed to the states. Funds cannot be used for new construction. The President’s plan also proposes $5 billion of investments for facilities modernization needs at community colleges.

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 infrastructure 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 –including 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.

Maximum flexibility to the states and funding for small repairs and large-scale maintenance and upgrade projects. Funds could be used for a range of projects, including greening and energy-efficiency upgrades; asbestos abatement and removal; improvements to after-school facilities and community spaces; and modifications to comply with the Americans with Disabilities Act.

To ensure that schools in the most disrepair will be able to make necessary enhancements, almost 40 percent of the funds will be directed toward the 100 largest high-need public school districts.   Each of the 100 Local Educational Agencies (LEAs) with the largest numbers of children living in poverty would receive a formula amount proportionate to its Elementary and Secondary Education Act Title I Part A allocation within 60 days of enactment.

The remaining approximately 60 percent will be given to states to allocate, and states would have flexibility to direct those funds to additional high-need districts, including schools in rural areas.  Funding would be allocated to states on the basis of their Title I shares. States would be required to obligate those funds by September 30, 2012, and outstanding balances would be reallocated to other states. States would direct half the funding to local school districts on a formula basis, and the other half through an application process in the most high-needs districts, with a priority for rural districts. A portion of the funding would be set-aside for Bureau of Indian Education schools (0.5 percent) and for the Outlying Areas (0.5 percent).

Funds will be put to work quickly.  For formula grants, states would be required to get funds to districts within three to six months of enactment and the districts would have to expend the funds within 24 months of enactment.  The selection criteria would prioritize projects that would be completed quickly, while affording grantees more time flexibility for their bigger projects.  To reduce the risk that districts will allow projects to stall, the American Jobs Act requires the funds be spent by September 30, 2012. 

The 19 high-need Texas districts and the amounts they’re eligible to receive are:

Houston ISD $233.6 million
Dallas ISD $191.6 million
Fort Worth ISD $84.9 million
Austin ISD $69.3 million
San Antonio ISD $69.1 million
El Paso ISD $66.2 million
Brownsville ISD $60 million
Aldine ISD $50.4 million
Alief ISD $44.8 million
Arlington ISD $39.1 million
Ysleta ISD $39.3 million
Laredo ISD $37.3 million
Pasadena ISD $33 million
Northside ISD $35.1 million
Edinburg CISD $32.8 million
Garland ISD $30.8
La Joya ISD $34.8 million
Pharr-San Juan-Alamo ISD $31.6 million
Corpus Christi ISD $28.2 million

Note: Estimated allocations are preliminary projections.

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