This vote was on an amendment by Virginia Foxx, R-N.C., that would increase by $10 million educational grants for individuals with disabilities, and would pay for the increase by cutting the same amount of money from the Innovation and Improvement account. The amendment was offered to the bill that funds the Labor, Health and Education departments in fiscal 2008.
Foxx said her amendment would essentially cancel a new grant program the underlying bill would create. The grant program in the bill is for "full-service community schools," which provide students and their family with "community access to comprehensive services" such as nutrition, job training, health and dental care and other items.
"I am concerned we are moving schools away from focusing on the basics, academics. Our schools still have room for much improvement in ensuring all students are proficient in the basics of math, reading, writing, science and history. So why is the Federal Government sending money to turn schools into social, medical, educational job training hubs?" Foxx said.
David Obey, D-Wis., said the program is a modest one that is intended to help test the concept of making a school into a community center that includes academic enrichment activities as well as encouraging familial participation in a child's education.
"It's meant to be a much more holistic educational experience than is usually found in an individual school. We believe that that deserves an opportunity to be tested," Obey said. "Secondly, I would simply say that, lest this amendment be portrayed as an amendment that does anything significant for special education, I want to point out that this is an especially marginal amendment. The damage it does to the neighborhood school concept that we are trying to explore in the bill is far larger than the negligible impact that it has on the special education program."
The amendment was rejected by a vote of 186-241. All but one Democrat present voted against the amendment (Nancy Boyda of Kansas). Of Republicans present, 185 voted for the amendment and 13 voted against it. The end result is that the amendment that would have shifted $10 million from a new community schooling grant program to special education funding was defeated.