State of the Art Schools


By Sherrod Brown - Guest Columnist

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Investing in State of the Art Schools

If we want to prepare our students for 21st century jobs, we need to invest in 21st century classrooms. But too many of our schools have fallen into disrepair, and students can’t learn in schools that are crumbling around them.

Last week, several Ohio schools were forced to close early, taking away valuable classroom time, due to excessive heat and a lack of adequate air conditioning and modern ventilation in many older buildings.

Last month, I visited one Ohio high school that is 90 years old, and has never been renovated. And unfortunately, we see the same issues in schools across Ohio.

We need to invest in updating our schools, so that we can not only be prepared in circumstances like heat waves, but also so that we can continue to prepare the next generation of leaders.

That’s why this summer, I introduced the School Building Improvement Act of 2017, which would provide local districts with an infusion of direct grants and school construction bonds over the next 10 years to update our schools and create an estimated 1.9 million jobs across the country.

All of the school repair, renovation, and construction would be completed with American-made materials, supporting our local manufacturing and construction industries.

Nearly a quarter of state and local infrastructure dollars are spent on our public schools. This investment would support good jobs, putting Ohioans to work rebuilding schools with American-made steel, iron, and concrete.

During President Trump’s campaign, he promised a $1 trillion dollar investment in American infrastructure, built with American iron and steel and made by American workers. And since the beginning of the year, I’ve been clear that I’m eager to get to work with the president to make that investment a reality.

Rebuilding our schools has to be part of any plan. This is an investment that will pay off now, in the form of good constructions jobs, and in the future, as we better prepare the next generation of Ohioans for the workforce.

Forced Arbitration

The recent fake account scandal at Wells Fargo and the data breach at Equifax have brought to light so-called “forced arbitration.” These clauses, tucked in the fine print, force Ohioans to sign away their rights to access the court system if they are cheated.

And these clauses don’t end with financial institutions. From nursing homes to for-profit colleges, Ohio’s working families should not be forced to sign away their right to a day in court.

I talked with an Ohioan whose wife suffered physical and mental abuse while undergoing care in a nursing home. This would be bad enough on its own, but because of forced arbitration clauses in the nursing home’s paperwork, the family can’t seek relief in court.

Any family who’s been through the transition of admitting a loved one into a nursing home will tell you it’s a difficult time in the best of circumstances. Forcing those families to sign away their rights is not only wrong, it’s dangerous.

We see similar issues in banks and other financial contracts, like those signed by Equifax and Wells Fargo customers. And we’ve seen it in the shady for-profit college industry. Schools close and leave students tens of thousands of dollars in debt, with no degree, and unbeknownst to students, their enrollment agreements contained forced arbitration clauses.

Thankfully, the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services, and the Department of Education took action to protect consumers.

But now action by Congress and the Administration puts those protections in jeopardy.

The House already passed a law overturning the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau’s rule, voting to leave consumers vulnerable to these sneaky clauses by banks and payday lenders. Now the Senate is considering doing the same as early as this week.

On top of that, the Trump Administration announced it will roll back rules that were meant to protect students and nursing home patients, before they even go into effect.

I’m supporting the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau’s rule and fighting efforts in the Senate to overturn it, making it easier for banks like Wells Fargo to deny rights to their customers. And I’m urging the Administration to do the right thing and move forward with protections at the Department of Education and the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services.

As elected officials, it’s our job to protect the people we serve – not banks and corporations trying to scam consumers.

One Hell of a Fight

This Spring, one of the chief architects of failed trickle-down economics, Martin Feldstein, let the cat out of the bag. On the Wall Street Journal Opinion page he laid out in detail how Washington Republican elites plan to pay for so-called tax reform: with massive cuts to Social Security and Medicare.

Now the latest proposal they’ve floated would take away the freedom Americans have to choose the retirement savings plan that works best for them and force everyone into a Roth account – slapping taxes on the retirement savings of working, middle class families.

You’ve got to be kidding me: their two best ideas to pay for massive tax cuts for Wall Street are to slash Social Security and then steal from the retirement accounts of working, middle class Americans.

Not if I have anything to say about it.

If President Trump and Congressional Republicans want to work together with us to build a tax code that puts more money in the pockets of working families and small businesses – and rewards employers that keep jobs in the U.S., Democrats are ready and willing to work with them to get it done.

But if Senator McConnell follows the model of healthcare – where a handful of white men met in back rooms to write a bill designed by special interests lobbyist – he’s going to have one hell of a fight on his hands.

Celebrating Manufacturing Day

On National Manufacturing Day, Brown toured Ohio, meeting with Ohio business, students, and community leaders to promote one of our state’s most important industries.

“Today’s Ohio factories aren’t rusty – they’re innovative and high-tech, and will provide the good-paying, high-skilled jobs of the future,” said Brown. “Manufacturing has the strongest multiplier effect of any industry – for every $1 we invest in manufacturing, we add an additional $1.48 to our economy. In an era where hard work doesn’t pay off like it used to for so many workers, investing in good-paying manufacturing jobs is more critical than ever.”

Brown started his Manufacturing Day tour in Canfield with a visit and roundtable discussion at the Cutting Edge Manufacturing Event. He followed that visit with stops in Guernsey and Muskingum Counties where he hosted more roundtable discussions on how best to continue Ohio’s strong tradition of manufacturing and innovation.

Brown has spent his career fighting for Ohio manufacturing. Some of Brown’s efforts to champion Ohio manufactures and workers include:

• Summer Manufacturing Camps

• Seeking Better Trade Deals for Ohio workers

• Leading Legislation to Support American Manufacturing

In March, Brown unveiled a plan to make hard work pay off for Ohioans. For more than a year, Brown and his office studied the challenges facing workers in Ohio and across the country and compiled a comprehensive agenda of solutions. Brown has introduced legislation to implement his plan, and he launched a new podcast, “Canarycast,” which features discussions moderated by Brown on how to restore the value of work in America.

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By Sherrod Brown

Guest Columnist

Brown (D-Ohio) is a U.S. Senator.

Brown (D-Ohio) is a U.S. Senator.