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U.S. Sen. Tom Harkin, D-Iowa, told the Daily Yonder’s Douglas Burns that community colleges should factor heavily into the mix of federal stimulus money expected to emerge soon from Congress. President Obama has asked that lawmakers have an economic stimulus package on his desk by Feb. 16. The stimulus package is estimated at $850 billion — some of which will be tax cuts.
For his part, Harkin (above), a senior member of the Senate Appropriations Committee, is using his influence to push for more than $100 billion in stimulus spending on schools — $79 billion for states and school districts, $16 billion for projects at schools that involve “green energy,” $3.5 billion for higher education, and $14 billion for Pell Grants or money to help college students pay for tuition. In all of that he said community colleges should be a priority. “It’s community colleges where workers are often trained for jobs,” Harkin said on a conference call with media.
If Harkin is successful in securing certain funding streams, he estimated that roughly $626 million would flow to Iowa for general education along with $79 million for K-12 school construction. Of the $46 million in higher education stimulus for Iowa, Harkin said about half of that would go to community colleges. Harkin, who chairs the Senate Agriculture Committee, said rural areas should receive stimulus dollars as well. “We will be putting significant amounts of money into agriculture,” Harkin said.