House Committee on Education and Labor
U.S. House of Representatives

Rep. Howard P. “Buck” McKeon
Ranking Member

Fiscally responsible reforms for students, workers and retirees.


Fact Sheet

May 12, 2009

CONTACT: Alexa Marrero
(202) 225-4527

The 21st Century Green High-Performing Public School Facilities Act (H.R. 2187)

The primary responsibility for elementary and secondary education, including school construction, modernization, and repair, rests with state and local governments.  Republicans strongly oppose attempts by Congressional Democrats to nationalize and regulate school construction, usurping local control of education.

The 21st Century Green High-Performing Public School Facilities Act (H.R. 2187) creates a massive and unproven federal school construction program that undermines efforts at the state and local level to build and modernize schools while significantly expanding the size and scope of the federal government. Using Congressional Budget Office (CBO) estimates, the legislation is projected to cost close to $40 billion.

More specifically, H.R. 2187:

  • Nationalizes and regulates school construction. The introduction of a new federal program for school construction would give the federal government responsibility for funding and regulating school construction projects. H.R. 2187 would require states and school districts to use funds to modernize school buildings while meeting a variety of bureaucratic requirements and guidelines, including regulations that building materials meet certain environmental rules. These restrictive federal regulations will needlessly increase project costs and provide less flexibility for states and school districts to meet the needs of their students.

  • Threatens state, local, and private support for educational infrastructure. A new federal program for school construction could have severe unintended consequences, including the possibility that states, local communities, and private sector investors could back away from their responsibility to build and maintain safe and modern schools. H.R. 2187 represents a massive and unprecedented shift in the education funding dynamic, with the federal government threatening to take over responsibility for building schools, arguably one of the most fundamental responsibilities of states and communities.

  • Jeopardizes Congress’ ability to reduce federal spending, pushing the country further into debt. The federal government is expected to run an almost $2 trillion deficit this year and the national debt currently stands at more than $11 trillion. Instead of proposing fiscally responsible reforms that will improve student academic achievement, H.R. 2187 will add billions to the federal debt, significantly increasing the size and scope of the federal government and undermining Congress' ability to reduce the deficit and get the federal budget under control.

  • Increases project costs through imposition of Depression-era Davis-Bacon wage mandates. H.R. 2187 will drive up the cost of school construction projects by requiring compliance with the Davis-Bacon Act, a law written more than seven decades ago that imposes costly and burdensome wage requirements that have been proven to be flawed. Projects conducted under the requirements of the Davis-Bacon Act commonly cost between 22 and 26 percent more when compared to similar projects completed under market conditions. Davis-Bacon wages have been shown to both overestimate and underestimate actual prevailing wages, meaning that either taxpayers or workers are shortchanged by the law. Moreover, its complicated requirements often prevent small businesses from participating in projects saddled with the law’s mandates.

  • Siphons resources from longstanding education priorities and fails to improve academic achievement. Using Congressional Budget Office estimates, Republicans expect the Democrats’ school construction plan to cost nearly $40 billion, diverting significant resources from programs that are properly focused on raising the academic achievement of all students. For example, H.R. 2187 has the potential to take away needed resources for:

    • The Title I program for disadvantaged students, which provides grants to states and school districts to help educate low-income and other disadvantaged students.

    • The Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA), which provides funding to states and local agencies to provide special education for children with disabilities.

The creation of a new federal school construction program adds another competing program that will make it increasingly difficult to fulfill funding commitments already in place and undermine Congress’ effort to close the achievement gap.

H.R. 2187 would undermine state and local educational agencies’ responsibility for school construction, add billions of dollars to the national debt, and dramatically increase the size and scope of the federal government; and it would do these things while diminishing support for programs that serve disadvantaged students.

# # #