Small business to benefit from plan

Published 7:16 pm Sunday, June 8, 2008

By Staff
The House Democratic majority last week brought to the floor a bill that takes $20 billion in taxpayer money and creates a massive, bureaucratic school construction program.
The 21st Century Green High-Performing Public School Facilities Act, H.R. 3021, would authorize $6.4 billion in the first year to build public schools according to “green” standards while pulling additional funds from Title I programs, which are for low-income students, as well as the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA).
This bill was brought to the House floor at a time when gas prices are within a single cent of reaching $4 per gallon. AAA reported last week that gas prices have reached a new record of $3.99 per gallon.
These record breaking prices are affecting all parts of our economy - from grocery prices to airline tickets, from school supplies to school lunches, no area of our economy has been left untouched.
While most Alabama schools are out for the summer and school administrators are planning the upcoming school year, many are becoming increasingly concerned about the energy costs they will face when students return to the classrooms.
A number of school districts have started limiting the number of field trips and cutting back on taking their athletic teams on the road. Other school districts, including Alabama's Henry County, are canceling classes one day a week because the cost to operate school buses is astronomical. The average school bus runs on diesel, which is currently averaging an astonishing $4.77 per gallon, up from $2.90 per gallon last year.
Clearly, America's schools are suffering as a result of rising gas prices, yet the majority's bill does not allow for any of the funds to be used to help existing schools pay their skyrocketing energy bills.
House Republicans tried to use H.R. 3021 as a means to provide help where it is desperately needed. Specifically, Republicans offered an alternative that would allow schools that have seen their energy costs rise by more than 50 percent since last January, to use the funding to help cover their energy expenditures. Unfortunately, the alternative failed 187-230.
While building new schools to “green” standards is worthwhile and may have long-term benefits, existing schools need help now and that help, sadly, was denied by the House last week. This issue is yet another reminder Congress is not doing enough to address the energy crisis the American people are facing.
This bill still must pass the Senate, and the White House has threatened a veto.
My staff and I work for you.  If we can ever be of service, do not hesitate to call my office toll free at 1-800-288-8721.
Jo Bonner is a member of the house of representatives. He can be reached through his website at www.bonnerhouse.gov.