DC Shuttle: Obama Proposes $5 Billion for Community College Infrastructure

In his speech before a joint session of Congress Thursday evening, President Obama put forward several proposals aimed at bolstering the economy and creating jobs. Among these proposals was $30 billion to repair and revamp school facilities, including $5 billion specifically for community college infrastructure.

Education advocates in the administration and Congress have attempted to advance funding for school improvement and repair several times over the past few years. The American Graduation Initiative, an administration program which was ultimately dropped from the 2010 healthcare/student aid reform legislative package, included $12 billion for community college improvements. Billions for higher education infrastructure also failed to make it into the final version of the 2009 economic stimulus law.

Details on how the proposed $30 billion in new infrastructure funding would be distributed have yet to be released. The president’s proposal also includes another $30 billion to prevent and reverse 280,000 teacher layoffs, which was among the goals of 2010’s economic stimulus package. Reactions from Democrats and education advocates were generally favorable, although several Republicans expressed reservations. Congressman John Kline (R-MN), chair of the House Education and Workforce Committee, said that “common sense … tells us that another teacher union bailout will not ensure a quality education for our children.”

On Thursday, the House Veterans’ Affairs Committee voted 17-5 to approve legislation (H.R. 2433) opening up education benefits to unemployed veterans. Bill sponsor and Committee Chair Jeff Miller (R-FL) said that the bill would provide 100,000 currently unemployed veterans aged 35-64 with up to one year of training, in addition to a grant program for retraining for homeless veterans. The House is expected to take up the bill later this month. On the Senate Veterans’ Affairs Committee, Chair Patty Murray (D-WA) is advancing legislation (S. 951) targeting unemployed veterans from the Iraq and Afghanistan wars for employment initiatives.

The Department of Education released proposed requirements for the third round of Race to the Top grants on Wednesday. Finalists from the second round will compete for a portion of the $200 million education reform grant fund. States submitted reform plans focused on enhancing STEM education, recruiting and retaining effective teachers, and turning around failing schools.

From the New England Council’s Weekly Washington Report Higher Education Update, Sept. 12, 2011. NEBHE is a member of the Council and publishes this column each week.

Founded in 1925, the New England Council is a nonpartisan alliance of businesses, academic and health institutions, and public and private organizations throughout New England formed to promote economic growth and a high quality of life in the New England region. The Council’s mission is to identify and support federal public policies and articulate the voice of its membership regionally and nationally on important issues facing New England. For more information, please visit www.newenglandcouncil.com.

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