February 11, 2009

Wyden, Merkley Petition for Education Stimulus Funds

"If we are serious about restoring our economy and investing for the future, education programs should be the last to face cuts - not the first."

Washington, D.C. - Citing the crippling effect budget shortfalls will have on education in Oregon and around the country, U.S. Senators Ron Wyden (D-Ore.) and Jeff Merkley (D-Ore.) asked Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) today to restore reduced education funding in the economic recovery package. The House version of the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act contains more than $60 billion more in state education assistance than the Senate version which passed yesterday. Wyden and Merkley strongly urged Reid to recover every available dollar for education as the House and Senate bills are reconciled in conference.

"With Oregon facing an $800 million shortfall between now and June, a fully funded stabilization fund is vital to maintain school services," wrote Wyden and Merkley. "State officials tell us that without help, many K-12 school districts will shorten their calendars by as many as ten days to save costs."

The Senators also underscored the need to restore funding for school construction, citing the schools in the town of Vernonia, Oregon where elementary, middle and high schools remain heavily damaged due to severe floods in 2007.

"For towns like Vernonia the availability of Federal school construction funding could mean the difference between having usable schools or not…cost estimates [to repair schools in Vernonia] run as high as $45 million - a sum this small town can hardly afford to cover," continued Wyden and Merkley. "School construction funds are not only vital to schools and communities, but are also funds that would directly stimulate local economies and provide good-paying jobs."

The full text of the letter is available at: