Calling it a major step towards modernizing Iowa schools, Senator Tom Harkin announced that the Iowa Department of Education will award more than $11.5 in Harkin Grants to Iowa School Districts. The funding comes from two pilot programs Harkin created to help local school districts with construction projects and upgrades to meet fire safety codes.
Alta School district will receive a $25,000 cut of those funds. Superintendent Fred Maharry was unavailable for contact at presstime to discuss what the funds will be used for.
"Iowa kids deserve safe, well-maintained schools," said Harkin. "Far too many children across our state are learning in substandard classrooms and unsuitable environments. These grants will help Iowa schools and students excel well into the 21st Century. This is truly an investment in our state's future."
Harkin's school demonstration construction program is intended to study how a modest federal investment can significantly modernize and improve school buildings. Iowa school districts will receive $2.8 million in fire safety grants to make urgent repairs to remedy fire safety code violations. School districts will receive $8.6 million for major construction and renovation projects and will require up to a 50 percent match form the local school district.
Harkin started the successful school demonstration construction project in 1997. Since then, Harkin grants have provided $93.2 million to 264 school districts across Iowa. Harkin also secured an additional $7 million for the Harkin grants program in Fiscal year 2004 Omnibus Appropriations bill.
"Our government can and should do more to ensure that our kids have access to safe and modern schools equipped with the highest possible technology," said Harkin. "There is a legitimate federal role on helping fix our nation's crumbling schools, and we can do so without undermining local control of education. These grants will make schools more amendable to teaching and learning and will improve the quality of education for thousands of children."
According to the General Accounting Office, 79 percent of Iowa schools report a need to repair or upgrade their buildings and facilities. In addition, an infrastructure study conducted by the Iowa State University in the mid-1990s reported $3.4 billion is needed to modernize public schools in the state.
Newell-Fonda School District will also receive $25,000 and Schaller-Crestland School District will receive $22,120.