Funding legislation approved last night by the Senate Appropriations Committee includes proposals and investments advocated by United States Senator Mary L. Landrieu, D-La., to improve charter schools, encourage the development of sustainable communities and support local efforts to establish intercity passenger rail service.
The Appropriations Committee, of which Sen. Landrieu is a member, favorably reported out FY 2012 funding legislation for Labor Health and Human Services (Labor-HHS) and Transportation, Housing and Urban Development (THUD). The bills now move on for consideration by the full Senate.
Included in the Labor-HHS bill is $256 million for the Charter Schools Program, which matches the FY 2011 funding levels. The bill also reserves $55 million to continue the high-quality Charter Management Organization (CMO) competition and includes $11 million to strengthen charter school authorizing and oversight.
"High quality, public charter schools are an integral part of public education reform," Sen. Landrieu said. "Parents who are doing everything they can to give their children every opportunity for success deserve not only a quality choice, but a solution to educating them. Successful charter schools provide that choice and that solution, and the time is now to make them a central component of our education strategy all across the country."
The bill also sets aside 5 percent of funding from Teacher Quality State Grants for which national teacher training and credentialing programs like Teach For America, the National Board for Professional Teaching Standards and the National Writing Project will be eligible to compete.
"Teach for America has achieved tremendous results in Louisiana and throughout the nation," Sen. Landrieu said. "I am proud to fight to ensure that Teach for America and programs like it have the resources they needs to continue putting high-quality teachers in our children's classrooms."
The Labor-HHS Appropriations Bill also includes:
* $320 million for the National Health Service Corps, which helps bring primary care health providers to medically-underserved areas.
* Level funding for the Community Mental Health Block Grant -- a principle vehicle for financial support for evidence-based, comprehensive services for low income and uninsured persons living with serious mental illnesses. This money enables Louisiana and community providers to respond to the fiscal crisis impacting public mental health systems in our state.
The THUD Appropriations Bill includes a bipartisan amendment to restore $100 million in funding for High Speed and Intercity Passenger Rail grants, which will help build an efficient, high-speed and emerging high speed passenger rail network connecting major population centers. In the short-term, the program aims to aid economic recovery efforts and lay the foundation for this high-speed passenger rail network through targeted investments. As part of the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act, $8 billion was awarded nationwide under this program.
"The funding for high speed rail provided in this bill is a worthwhile investment that will create jobs and provide easier and more convenient modes of transit. It is fully paid for and does not increase the deficit by a single penny," Sen. Landrieu said. "I urge the state of Louisiana to pursue a portion of this funding to help complete a much-needed, high-speed rail line between New Orleans and Baton Rouge."
The THUD Appropriations Bill also includes:
* $90 million for HUD's Sustainable Communities Initiative. This program integrates housing and transportation planning to encourage sustainable development patterns for residents and businesses.
* $120 million for the HUD CHOICE Neighborhoods Initiative that helps public housing authorities demolish obsolete or failed developments.