Friday, August 5, 2011

FAST: Fix America’s Schools Today

Here's a good job creation idea, from former White House advisor Jared Bernstein, who now works at the Center for Budget and Policy Priorities.

Cross-posted from Americans for Democratic Action
FAST: Fix America’s Schools Today

By: Bob Lucore
June 24, 2011

How about an economic stimulus that creates lots of jobs quickly, contributes to a greener environment, makes kids healthier and improves the lives of both students and teachers?

A national program to repair and improve public school buildings could do all this and more, at a tiny fraction of the cost of extending tax cuts for the mega-rich. It would be a short-term stimulus with long-term benefits.

Jared Bernstein—Vice President Biden’s former economic advisor, now at the Center for Budget and Policy Priorities—has come up with a catchy name for it: FAST (Fix America’s Schools Today). There is a huge backlog of needed maintenance for America’s public schools. Students move their desks to dodge falling ceiling tiles, bathroom plumbing doesn’t function, roofs leak, and children suffer from asthma due to sick building syndrome. People Magazine says teachers are thwarted “by school buildings that are dirty, disheartening and dangerous.”

America’s public school infrastructure got a D grade on a recent report card from the American Society of Civil Engineers.

Students are under continuous pressure to pass high-stakes tests and teachers get the blame if students fall short of ever rising performance goals. Don’t they both deserve clean, green, desirable facilities?

Spending to clean, repair, and insulate the schools could generate jobs rapidly. The money could be targeted since the schools most in need are tend to be in the areas with the highest rates of joblessness. Furthermore, many of the jobs created would not require formal training.

Bernstein puts it this way: “It’s a smart way to get a lot of people who really need jobs back to work, fix a critical part of our institutional infrastructure, save energy costs, provide kids with a better, healthier learning environment, and do so in way that everyone can see and feel good about each morning when they drop their kids at school.” Which would you rather spend public money on: better schools, or more tax cuts for the top 2%?

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