Always on the prowl for news that might affect historic schools, I found this in the New York Times summary of the almost-passed stimulus bill:
The plan would shower the nation’s school districts, child care centers and university campuses with $150 billion in new federal spending, a vast two-year investment that would more than double the Department of Education’s current budget. The proposed emergency expenditures on nearly every realm of education, including school renovation, special education, Head Start and grants to needy college students, would amount to the largest increase in federal aid since Washington began to spend significantly on education after World War II.
The bill would, for the first time, involve the federal government in a significant fashion in the building and renovation of schools, which has been the responsibility of states and districts. It includes $20 billion for school renovation and modernization, with $14 billion for elementary and secondary schools and $6 billion for higher education. It also includes tax provisions under which the federal government would pay the interest on constructionbonds issued by school districts.
Mr. Duncan said the bill’s school renovation provisions would create a “huge number of construction jobs,” because so many school buildings need repairs.
But Representative Howard P. McKeon, Republican of California and the ranking minority member of the House education committee, said, “By putting the federal government in the business of building schools, Democrats may be irrevocably changing the federal government’s role in education in this country.”
So, the good news (I think) is, there’s money out there for school buildings, a whole doggone heap of money. Presumably, that money could be used to renovate and upgrade historic schools and keep them functioning into the future (in other words, for good), or to demolish the old and build shiny new (for bad). We’ll have to see whether this will be a net good or net bad for our educational and community landmarks. An important question is whether standard historic preservation reviews are going to be a part of this package. I worry that they may be waived in the interest of speed–if that’s the case, then interested citizens will have much less input into what happens with the money and how its spent on their schools. Either way, as I’ve said before, if you love your community’s historic school, now’s the time to start asking questions and making friends on the school board.
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