The bill would allocate $500 million for poor schools for construction projects.
By DAVID SKOLNICK
VINDICATOR POLITICS WRITER
YOUNGSTOWN -- Impoverished school districts building new facilities would receive 10 percent of their construction costs from the federal government under a bill introduced by U.S. Rep. James A. Traficant Jr.
But other recent attempts by legislators to get congressional approval of school construction money have failed.
"He's begun discussion with the Republicans on this," said Charles Straub, Traficant's spokesman, about his boss. "His positioning in Congress is going to be a real asset. He's shown an ability to work with the Republican leadership. If any Democrat can do this, it will be Jim Traficant."
Bill details: Traficant's proposal calls for Congress to allocate $500 million annually to assist impoverished communities -- those with at least 20 percent of their school-age children below the poverty level -- with school construction. Straub said Traficant's office has not determined how many schools would qualify, but Youngstown would be one of them.
The bill would allow those school districts to have 10 percent of construction costs paid by the federal government as long as they already have the rest of the money in place for the project.
"There is no reason why the federal government should not be involved in support for school construction," Traficant, of Poland, D-17th, said in a prepared statement. "We build prisons to house those who haven't learned, yet we ignore school construction and all of its potential benefits on our young people who are trying to learn. There is something fundamentally wrong with this scenario."
Amendment OK'd: Traficant got an amendment to the federal education-reform bill approved Wednesday. It calls for school districts receiving money from the bill to use American-made steel in construction projects. The problem is the bill does not include any money for school construction projects.
While speaking on his amendment, Traficant urged Congress to include federal money for "hard-pressed communities that can't build schools."
A follow-up: Traficant had vowed to work toward getting construction money into the bill and this is a follow-up to that, Straub said. School districts obtaining money through Traficant's proposal would also be required to build using American-made steel.
"Not only would we provide a healthy learning environment for our kids, we would also provide a significant market for our struggling domestic steel industry," Traficant said. "It's a win-win situation."