December 13, 2001
This week, Congress is poised to send President Bush a far-reaching education plan that would dramatically change how federal education dollars are spent.
Ninth District Congressman Adam Smith, a longtime proponent of more flexibility for local schools and results-based accountability, hailed the package as “the biggest change in federal education policy since the passage of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act,” in the late 1960’s.
“For the first time, we will measure a school’s success and take real, meaningful action when the school is failing,” Smith said. “It’s simply inexcusable that for so long, so many children - often low-income and minority children - have been wasting away in failing public schools. We’ve got to change that - every child deserves the opportunity to succeed.”
The bill would require states to establish a minimum level of educational standards and monitor schools’ progress on meeting those standards. Schools that fail to improve would be subject to additional assistance and action: after two years, schools would receive extra funding and federal assistance in developing a two-year improvement plan. Students may transfer to another public school and can use federal funds for private tutoring or summer school programs. If the two-year improvement plan fails to make the needed improvements, the school could have its staff and curriculum replaced or be converted into a charter school.
The legislation also allows school districts far more flexibility in determining how to spend federal funds.
“We used to have more than sixty federal education programs, and schools were required to spend each pot of money for a very narrow purpose,” said Smith. “Now, schools are going to have much for flexibility and will be able to determine where they need to spend money and can move funds between programs more freely. That’s critical if we want to have a school that adequately meets the needs of its students every year.”
Smith has been a longtime proponent of allowing greater local flexibility and results-based accountability in our public schools. After extensive discussions with teachers, administrators, parents, and education experts, Smith introduced the Empowering Local Schools Act in January of 2000. In 2001, he joined with fellow New Democrat Senator Joe Lieberman (D-CT) in introducing the Three R’s Act, which was very similar to the Empowering Local Schools Act.
Although the final education package does not exactly mirror these bills, it reflects many of the principles Smith has advanced in the education debate.
“I preferred to give states more flexibility in determining when to administer tests to students and to provide more funding based on a per-pupil and poverty formula instead of through grants,” explained Smith. “However, this bill is an enormous step in the right direction, and I’m proud to support the bill.”
This legislation authorizes changes to the Elementary and Secondary Education Act and funding levels. However, Congress still needs to appropriate funds on an annual basis beginning next year. Smith says the fight for improved public schools is not over.
“It’s been a priority to me that we not only ensure public schools have adequate funding, but that we spend the money in the right way,” noted Smith. “We’re now making dramatic changes in how we send federal dollars to our local schools, and now Congress has to fulfill its end of the bargain with our local schools and ensure they have the resources to get the job done. Turning around failing schools, requiring that all teachers be qualified in the subjects they teach, and assisting students with tutoring and summer school will all cost money. ”
The bill is expected to be passed by the Senate and House this week and be signed into law before Christmas.
For more background on Smith’s education bill and position on the federal role of education, please see the following press releases, speeches, and op/ed pieces:
December 5, 2001
Congressman Adam Smith is pleased to announce that his bill, HR 2115 the Lakehaven Utility District Wastewater Reclamation and Reuse Project, passed the US House of Representatives by a unanimous voice vote today.
“While I have been pushing this project for the past few years in Congress, I believe it is especially timely now due to the effects of this year’s drought in the Pacific Northwest,” said Smith. “I am pleased that we were able to pass this environmentally friendly bill through the House, it is now my hope the bill will pass the Senate with as much ease and garnish the President’s support.”
HR 2115 would amend the Reclamation Wastewater and Groundwater Study and Facilities Act to authorize the Secretary of the Interior to participate in the design, planning, and construction of a project to reclaim and reuse wastewater within and outside of the service area of the Lakehaven Utility District, Washington. The authorization of this bill would allow the Lakehaven Utility District to be eligible for up to a 25% federal match for the development and construction this project. The federal government’s estimated share for the project is about $8 million.
“This bill will allow Lakehaven to reuse and reclaim water which is currently not being utilized and essentially being wasted,” said Smith. “This is especially important because of the current strain on our groundwater supplies that has been exasperated by this year’s earlier drought and the continued development growth in the area. Not only is the demand for water increasing, but simultaneously the groundwater supply is depleting; this legislation will increase our usable water and recharge the aquifer.”
Lakehaven Utility District is one of Washington state’s largest water and sewer utilities district, providing ten million gallons of water a day to approximately 100,000 residents, encompassing the city of Federal Way, and portions of Des Moines, Kent, Auburn, Pacific, Algona, Milton, King County and Pierce County.
The utility district uses groundwater sources that are recharged primarily from local precipitation. While development has reduced the ability for these aquifers to naturally recharge, the demand for water from these sources has increased to exceed their safe production limits and simultaneously, a reduction in these aquifer levels has decreased well water production. The Lakehaven Utility District has two secondary wastewater treatment plants currently discharging over six million gallons of water a day to Puget Sound. This project, if enacted, would recapture that water and treat some of it for reuse to irrigate golf courses and other facilities, while the rest of the water would be returned to the aquifer through injections wells. The reuse of water for non-drinking purposes is expected to ease the demands on the groundwater supply.
The bill must now follow the same legislative process in the Senate before it reaches the White House for a signature establishing the bill as law.
Congressman Adam Smith announced today several key transportation projects in Washington state will receive significant federal funding, allowing several small cities and counties to improve public transportation and alleviate trucker congestion within the 9th district.
The funding comes as part of H.R. 2299, the 2002 Transportation Appropriations Conference Report, which passed the House of Representatives 371 - 11 and is expected to be passed by the Senate early next week before being signed by the President.
A list of projects Congressman Adam Smith endorsed that will improve transportation in the South Puget Sound region include:
$ 900,000 for the Kent 2nd Street Extension in Kent, WA:
The Federal Transportation Agency’s guidelines for transit-oriented development highly encourages complementary facilities and structures that will enhance the role of public transportation. The Second Avenue project is such a facility, in that it will enable more people to live in downtown Kent and access other points of the City. It will also foster better neighborhood to neighborhood connections, and will provide important access for people who use alternative modes of transit such as commuter rail and park and rides.
$1.5 million for the Transit Oriented Development Project, Tukwila, Washington:
The funding would help complete the City of Tukwila’s urban center master planning process and install infrastructure which will establish the land use framework and infrastructure improvements necessary for the development of a public/private transit-oriented development at in Tukwila’s the urban center. The development will be adjacent to the City’s and Sound Transit’s recently opened, but “bare-bones,” commuter rail station now operating from a temporary plywood platform.
$ 200,000 for Port of Tacoma Trucker Congestions Notification System:
This project will expand an on-going effort to provide truckers with advanced notice about congestion at the Port of Tacoma. An existing system uses a queue detector installed at the Port of Tacoma Road exit. This detector is linked to a changeable sign on I-5 that warns truckers of congestion at this main access road. Once aware of congestion the truckers can take one of several alternative roads into the port. However, this system serves only truckers on I-5 heading to the Port from the north. Additional funding is needed to expand the detection system to other exits to the port (Portland Avenue and the Fife Exit) and provide this information, using a system of variable message signs, to Port traffic from both the north and south. In addition, this information will be made available to a wider range of travelers.
$ 5 million for the City of Renton/Port Quendall Project:
Improvements to the 44th Street Interchange general purpose and HOV/transit lanes. Located in the City of Renton near the Port Quendall Brownfield redevelopment project, the interchange improvements are critical to the City of Renton’s long range, comprehensive planning efforts in the area and are listed in regional and state transportation plans, confirming its role in addressing regional growth.
$ 2.5 million for the Pierce County Vehicle Initiative in the state of Washington:
The Pierce Transit Vehicle Initiative would allow the procurement of passenger vehicles to meet important service needs and to continue to work towards the goal of a 100% compressed natural gas (CNG) fixed route fleet by 2006.
$20 million, Sound Transit, Sounder Commuter Rail from Lakewood to Tacoma:
Sounder Commuter Rail will bring service directly into some of the region’s largest employment centers, providing convenient access for an estimated 18,800 daily riders in 2020. The Sounder project provides commuters with the most viable, high-speed alternative to travel along the congested I-5 corridor. The project is being constructed in three segments. The Tacoma to Seattle segment is operational. Lakewood to Tacoma segment is completing preliminary engineering and environmental phases and is scheduled for operation in late 2002 or early 2003. And the Everett to Seattle segment is completing preliminary engineering and environmental phases and is scheduled for operation in 2003.
$20 million FAST Corridor in Washington State:
FAST Corridor is a $400 million, six-year program to build 15 road/rail overpasses and underpasses from Tacoma to Everett. The program is funded by a coalition that includes the Port of Tacoma, Port of Seattle, Port of Everett, U.S. Department of Transportation, Washington State Department of Transportation, the Burlington Northern Santa Fe and Union Pacific railroads and numerous counties and cities in the Puget Sound area. FAST Corridor is an acronym for Freight Action Strategy for the Seattle-Tacoma Corridor. An example of FAST Corridor is the $33 million Port of Tacoma Road Overpass -- the first such project to be completed
$1 million, King County, Transit Oriented Developments/Transit Amenities:
Transit oriented development project sites associated with existing King County bus facilities and/or new Sound Transit regional bus, commuter rail or light rail facilities. The requested funds will be used to transform existing areas, or create new areas, into "green" or "pedestrian" streets by making changes such as, but not limited to: bus only lanes; on-street or off-street bus layover; street crossing improvements including bus bulbs, special pavement, and pedestrian signals; improved lighting; and bus shelters.
$ 3 million earmark for the WorkFirst Transportation Initiative:
The Initiative is a partnership among the WSDOT, DSHS, CTED, ESD, and ACCT. It coordinates resources at the community level to transport low-income people to work, training, child care, and other employment related services. Through multi-agency planning, existing resources are used efficiently and new resources are coordinated with existing services.
$ 9.5 million, Sound Transit, Regional Express Transit Hubs:
This package of Regional Express Transit Hubs includes the construction of new transit centers, park and ride lot capacity and direct HOV access improvements located in three counties in the cities of Lynnwood, Bellevue, Kirkland, Federal Way and Lakewood. The project will improve access, transit/HOV speed and reliability while integrating local and regional express bus service in Snohomish, East and South King County and Pierce County.
November 29, 2001
Ninth District Congressman Adam Smith, joined by a group of House New Democrat colleagues, today announced his support for a "lean, targeted, fiscally responsible" stimulus package.
The package includes meaningful relief for displaced workers and tax cuts designed to spur investment and stimulate the economy. Notably, the package maintains long-term fiscal discipline - a key cornerstone in a strong and healthy economy - by offsetting the worker relief and economic stimulus.
"There is a great economic argument taking place regarding whether or not our economy will continue to go south or if we're on our way to recovery,” said Smith "However, we all know for sure that hundreds of thousands of people are being laid off, and the unemployment rate in my state has climbed to 6.6 percent. That's why the centerpiece of our economic recovery package is meaningful workers' relief that includes extended unemployment, expanded eligibility for unemployment, training, and health care benefits. We cannot have a have an economic stimulus package without this kind of significant workers' relief.”
Also included in the proposal are tax cuts to stimulate the economy and spur investment, including providing for bonus depreciation on capital assets and increases in small business expensing allowances.
"Unlike a lot of the tax cut ideas being thrown out, these are tax cuts that will really work to encourage investment and create jobs,” Smith noted.
The New Democrat proposal is the only stimulus proposal that is fully offset, by cutting the top income tax rate to 38.6 percent instead of 35 percent over the next decade.
"Just yesterday, the White House announced that the days of budget surpluses are gone, and that we will see deficits for the rest of Bush's term,” Smith said. "While we absolutely must do something for the hundreds of thousands of displaced workers and something to give the economy a jump start, we must also maintain our long-term fiscal discipline.”
Currently, House and Senate Leadership is negotiating the procedure for a stimulus bill, and will begin discussing the substance of a bill as early as next week. Smith says that he is pleased negotiations have begun. "The proposal put forward by the New Democrats is where our leadership ought to be headed,” he said. "It's a measured, fiscally responsible approach that aims to cure what ails us - the unemployment problem. Instead of using the current situation to further longstanding political goals, whether it's big tax cuts or big spending increases, we should be moving in this direction.”