The U.S. Senate today approved year-end federal funding legislation, which contains education and health priorities advocated by United States Senator Mary L. Landrieu, D-La. This includes funding for charter schools, support for programs like Teach For America and increased funding for Louisiana from the Low Income Home Energy Assistance Program (LIHEAP). This legislation has passed the House and now goes to the President to be signed into law.
The legislation includes $256 million for the Charter Schools Program and $55 million to continue the high-quality Charter Management Organization (CMO) competition and $11 million to strengthen charter school authorizing and oversight.
"High quality public charter schools are a major factor in education reform," Sen. Landrieu said. "Parents deserve to have quality schools for their children, and they also deserve choices as to where to educate them. Successful charter schools are showing they can provide that important choice as well as a strong education."
The bill also sets aside 1.5 percent of funding from Teacher Quality State Grants for national teacher training and credentialing programs. Organizations 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 made wonderful contributions to schools in Louisiana and states across the nation," Sen. Landrieu said. "I will continue to fight to provide programs like Teach For America with the resources they need to continue serving children throughout our country."
Sen. Landrieu also led the Senate charge in improving the distribution of LIHEAP funds so that Louisiana would receive a more equitable share of the program money. Louisiana received an additional $13.8 million because of the Senator's efforts for a total of $43 million. LIHEAP is the only federal program that helps low-income households and seniors with their energy bills, providing assistance during both the cold winter and the hot summer months. This funding has been a lifeline during the economic downturn, helping to ensure that people do not have to choose between paying their energy bills and paying for food or medicine. In 2010, LIHEAP provided about 35,000 households in Louisiana with financial assistance. Families receiving LIHEAP assistance have incomes below 150 percent of the poverty line.
Sen. Landrieu also helped secure:
* $2.78 billion for Federally Qualified Health Centers (FQHC) -- FQHCs are non-profit, community-directed providers that remove common barriers to care by serving communities that otherwise confront financial, geographic, and other barriers. They provide comprehensive care to their patients and have become a vital component of the health system throughout the entire state.
* $149.7 million for the Investing in Innovation Fund (i3) - Established in the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act and continued in the 2011 appropriations bill. I3 supports the development and validation of promising practices, and strategies and programs with potential to improve student outcomes but for which efficacy has not yet been systematically studied. It also supports the expansion of innovative practices, strategies or programs that have demonstrated a record of success in improving student outcomes. Programs in Louisiana such as Teach For America, KIPP Charter Schools, and New Schools for New Orleans are current i3 grantees.
* $5,550 for the maximum Pell Grant award - Now more than ever, students need affordable, quality educational opportunities to help make our economy strong and competitive again. The Pell Grant program is essential to helping students enter college and gain 21st century skills. Over 100,000 undergraduate students receive Pell grants in Louisiana.
* $295 million for the National Health Service Corps -- The Corps helps bring primary care health providers to medically-underserved areas.
* $440 million 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.
* $2.6 billion for the Workforce Investment Act (WIA) - Because of Sen. Landrieu's advocacy, WIA funding was maintained from last year's levels. With Louisiana's unemployment rate at 7.2 percent and 146,600 Louisiana residents out of work, now is not the time to cut critical training and unemployment services. In Louisiana, the latest data shows that there has been a 73 percent increase in WIA participation rates over the last two years.