Congress: Hurray for Community Service!
So, last week, Congress got a lot of attention for a heated, rancorous debate over bonuses for AIG executives and employees. That basically overshadowed a much sunnier, bipartisan effort to bolster community service programs.
The Senate is set to consider the legislation this week. The Obama administration has already released a super-supportive statement on the bill which you can download here.
- It would establish a Summer of Service program, in which middle and high school kids could earn up to $500 to cover future education costs in exchange for helping out in their communities.
- It would create "Youth Engagement Zones" to help foster partnerships between community organizations and schools serving low-income kids to give students a chance to help out in their communities.
- It would create an Education Corps, to help improve student learning, engagement, and retention rates
"Volunteers play many roles," said Rep. George Miller, D-Calif., the chairman of the House Education and Labor Committee, during floor debate. "They teach in our classrooms. They clean up our trails and our public lands. They build and weatherize homes. They shelter the homeless and feed the hungry. That's what Americans do for one another. That's what Americans do in the name of service."
You can read a more thorough summary of the bill over at the House Education and Labor Committee's Web site.
In the House, the bill did have a fair number of detractors, including Rep. John A. Boehner, the former chairman of the House education committee, who is now the minority leader. But many of the Republicans on the House Education and Labor Committee, including ranking member Rep. Howard P. "Buck" McKeon of California voted for the measure.
Rep. Virginia Foxx, R-N.C., spoke for a number of the bill's critics when she said that it isn't really a government responsibility to support volunteerism.
"What this bill does is expands dramatically the government's role in an area that I don't think the government should be dealing with," Ms. Foxx said. "We're pretty soon going to have a government that controls everything in our society. That's not what America is all about."
Look for some of those arguments to be repeated on the Senate floor this week.