Today, the Appropriations Committee of the U.S. House of Representatives disclosed its draft of the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009, an $825 billion set of spending and tax cut programs to help jumpstart the economy through investments in critical infrastructure and social welfare programs. Among its provisions, the legislation would appropriate $14 billion for ‘green’ school modernization and repair projects. This funding is designed to serve the dual purpose of upgrading the nation’s schools into appropriate learning environments that ultimately save money and immediately put people to work.
Yet, while including all public school districts and charter schools in the proposed program, the legislation omits non-public schools from equitable and fair participation in the program.
Nathan Diament, Director of the public policy for the Orthodox Union
We commend the congressional leaders, as well as President-Elect Obama, for targeting school modernization projects as both a means to create jobs but also as an area for critical long term investment in America’s future. But we are greatly disappointed that in these early days of the new Congress and nascent Administration, a choice has been made to ignore the tradition of including non-public schools in federal education programs on an equitable basis.
This is a missed opportunity to give Jewish, Catholic and other schools – also suffering in the economic downturn – the means to meet green building standards, reduce costs, and aid our environment.
President-Elect Obama has repeatedly stated he is interested in funding “what works” in this package and not subjecting its contents to ideological tests. Moreover, Mr. Obama and Democrats have successfully engaged in a great deal of outreach to faith communities – but this is their first test to move beyond outreach to practical policies that will benefit faith communities. The Orthodox Union and our partners will continue to engage with allies in congress and the incoming president’s team to seek the inclusion of all eligible schools in this important initiative.