President Obama outlined his education goals broadly in his inaugural address: “We will transform our schools and colleges and universities to meet the demands of a new age.” The White House Website offers more specifics of the new administration’s comprehensive vision of educational reform but the real nitty gritty at the schoolhouse bricks-and-mortar level is tucked deeply into the Democrats’ draft economic stimulus bill, where $20 billion is earmarked for school remodeling, renovation and repair. Another $100 million would go for school rehab on federal lands.
The quick-start projects, with an emphasis on roofing, energy efficiency, rewiring and improvement of heating, ventilation and air conditioning systems, will likely please contractors more than design firms. An “emphasis on purely shovel-ready projects...will not provide the lasting benefit to our economy and infrastructure that is so sorely needed,” said a letter sent on Jan. 15 to congressional leaders from eight professional associations, including the American Institute of Architects, the American Society of Civil Engineers, and the American Planning Association. These groups would like to see infrastructure funds divided into two stages: one for work that can be initiated within 180 days of enactment and one for longer-term projects.