Obama to Call for Washington-Built Schools in Thursday ‘Jobs Speech’
President Obama will likely call for more education spending in his jobs speech scheduled for Thursday, and it’s anticipated that he will make a pitch specifically for new federal funding for school construction. But federally financed school construction is problematic on constitutional and practical grounds.
The U.S. Constitution does not mention the word education and certainly doesn’t permit Washington to fund the construction of schools, which have historically been, and should remain, under the direction of states and localities. In calling for federal funding for school construction—which has been rare and indirect—President Obama is once again exercising federal overreach in education.
Practically speaking, the federal government is also the most inefficient mechanism for financing school construction. If Washington funds school construction, it must pay prevailing wages, which increase costs, on average, by 22 percent. Because of Davis–Bacon labor laws, schools that receive federal funding for school construction would typically have to hire union workers, increasing costs and preventing non-union construction companies from having a seat at the bidding table.