This was a vote on an amendment offered by Rep. Hoekstra (R-MI) that would have eliminated three new multi-billion dollar federal construction programs for elementary and secondary schools and community colleges. It was offered to H.R.3221, the Student Aid and Fiscal Responsibility Act of 2009.
Rep. Hoekstra said he offered the amendment because he was opposed to what he termed “the continued expansion of the role of the federal government in K-12 education”, which he claimed increases costs with “little improvement in schools, in children's performance around the country.” He argued that the new construction programs authorized in H.R. 3221 represent further federal expansion when what should be done is “giving back and yielding control for our kids' education back to parents, back to local schools and back to states.”
Hoekstra also complained about the fact that the burdensome restrictions that attach to the granting of the federal school construction funds. Hoekstra cited “green standards” as an example. He went on to argue that these requirements create extensive and costly reporting requirements.
The result, Hoekstra claimed, is “that for every construction dollar that we spend, maybe 60-65 cents of it will actually be spent on construction. The other 35 to 40 cents of that dollar will be spent on reporting requirements, applying for it, meeting Federal requirements, and those types of things . . . We will not end up having more construction; we will have less construction because Federal bureaucracy and Federal bureaucrats will end up siphoning a lot of this money . . . to make sure that the local school districts do what Washington bureaucrats want them to do and not what needs to be done in their local school districts.”
Rep. George Miller (D-CA), who was leading support for H.R. 3221, opposed the amendment. He argued that when students “have the availability of a clean, well-lit place, modern facilities, they in fact do better in school.” Miller then noted that “community colleges are under tremendous pressure because of the economic dislocation from the recession that has taken place and continues to take place in so many communities and . . . as people are going back to the schools, we recognize the shortage of facilities that are there and what we are saying is this time we will lend a hand to those community colleges . . .”
Miller also said that this new construction funding “comes at an important time for these local school districts because . . . they are under siege from the loss of revenues in many local districts because of the economic downturn. In some cases they have had to postpone these projects even though they are desperately needed.”
The amendment was defeated by a vote of 161-262. One hundred and fifty-five Republicans and six Democrats voted “aye”. Two hundred and forty-six Democrats and sixteen Republican voted “nay”. As a result, all the funds for the new school construction programs remained in H.R. 3221.