Home > Essays > Congressman Bowman’s Overly Ambitious Plan for Green Schools Invites Sliming from the Right

Congressman Bowman’s Overly Ambitious Plan for Green Schools Invites Sliming from the Right

July 19, 2021

Common Dreams writer Jake Johnson describes an ambitious— make that OVERLY ambitious plan for reforming public education set forth by Congressman Jamal Bowman calling for a “revolution in public education”.  The plan is summarized in bullet form as follows: 

  • $446 billion in Climate Capital Facilities Grants and $40 billion for a Climate Change Resiliency Program

    • Climate Capital Facilities Grants will fully fund healthy green retrofits for the highest-need third of schools, as measured by the CDC Social Vulnerability Index, and offer a mix of grant funding and no- or low-interest loans for the middle and top thirds. Grants will cover two-thirds and one-third of retrofit costs for these schools, respectively. 

  • $250 billion in Resource Block Grants

    • Resource Block Grants will fund staffing increases, expanded social service programming, and curriculum development at high-need schools. The program will allow Local Educational Agencies across the country to hire and train hundreds of thousands of additional educators and support staff, including paraprofessionals, school psychologists and counselors, and learning specialists. The funds may also be used to design locally-rooted curricula; adopt trauma-informed, culturally responsive, and restorative justice practices, to move towards a “whole child” approach to public education; and partner with community organizations to offer a range of services to schools and surrounding neighborhoods, such as after-school programs. 

  • $100 million for an Educational Equity Planning Grants Pilot Program

    • Educational Equity Planning Grants will encourage neighboring Local Education Agencies to form regional consortia, which will receive funding to conduct extensive community outreach, identify the historical and current sources of educational disparities within the region, and create and implement a Regional Education Equity Plan to address those disparities. This pilot program is modeled on the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development’s Sustainable Communities Regional Planning Grants, which are designed to encourage equitable, locally-driven economic development. 

  • $695 billion over 10 years for Title I and IDEA (Individuals With Disabilities Education Act) increases

    • This bill proposes quadrupling Title I funding to reach $66 billion annually to support schools and districts with students living in poverty, as well as increasing funding for IDEA Part B to reach $33 billion annually to support students with disabilities.

As I noted in a comment I left:

Congressman Bowman’s plan is ambitious and, alas, does not stand a chance of getting a hearing within his party let alone the GOP. Why? Because too many in his party remain in the thrall of market-based solutions and “accountability” based on standardized test scores. Moreover, as the comments below indicate, even those who identify as progressives (who else reads this?) have become disenchanted with public education and would be reluctant to “throw money” at the kinds of solutions the Congressman proposes. His best bet (and that of the Democrats) would be to emphasize the spending needed to make the facilities “green”. To go beyond that at this point would invite a culture war that gives the Fox News anchors a chance to continue sliming “government schools”.

I am grateful, though, that the Congressman has put this on the table… staking out a position for the Democrats that might replace the market-based ideas embraced by the neo-liberals who still seem to control the dialogue on public schools in their party. 

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