This story was updated since its original posting to include a Senate amendment being offered by Sen Chris Murphy.
WASHINGTON, DC – On June 11, Congresswoman Elizabeth Esty (CT-5) introduced an amendment to the National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2014, HR 1960. The amendment would provide incentives to defense contractors to make donations to the rebuilding of a new Sandy Hook Elementary School.
“This amendment is another opportunity for my colleagues to help ensure that Sandy Hook Elementary School students, and school children in every community across the country that has faced unimaginable tragedy, have the support they need to continue their lives and to heal,” Rep Esty said.
Rep Esty believes the tragedy in Newtown has touched people across the country.
“As a nation, we have a solemn obligation to do all we can to help this small, brave community,” she said in a release. “I’m going to continue to fight to ensure that the Newtown community has the support they need to construct a new school, heal, and continue their lives.”
The amendment would provide a preference for defense contractors who make financial or in-kind donations to help support the rebuilding of elementary and secondary schools where the learning environment has been disrupted because of a violent or traumatic crisis that took place on the school campus. If the House Rules Committee authorizes it this week, the amendment will head to the House Floor for debate.
The amendment follows and complements the introduction last month, by Congresswoman Esty, Senator Richard Blumenthal, and Senator Chris Murphy, of the Helping Communities Rebuild After Deadly School Shootings and Other Traumatic Events Act.
The bill that would authorize schools to apply for federal funding for site construction in the wake of mass tragedies, through the existing SERV grant program, and allow for direct federal funding assistance to Sandy Hook Elementary School for its recently approved reconstruction project.
At the same time, US Senator Chris Murphy offered an amendment to the Strengthening America’s Schools Act of 2013 that would authorize federal funds to assist with the construction of a new Sandy Hook Elementary School.
The bill, which would reauthorize the Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA), was due to be taken up by the Senate Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions Committee. Sen Murphy's office reported that on June 12, the committee subsequently reviewed and voted to pass the bill, including that amendment.
The amendment mirrors standalone legislation introduced by Senators Murphy and Richard Blumenthal in the Senate (S.1025), and Congresswoman Esty in the House (H.R. 2102) titled the Helping Communities Rebuild After Deadly School Shootings and Other Traumatic Events Act.
Every member of Connecticut’s congressional delegation has signed on to the bill as original co-sponsors.
“Since that terrible morning in December, the families of the victims and the entire Newtown community have been tested to the very limits of human grief,” said Sen Murphy. "And through the pain and suffering, Newtown has come together to heal, and America has been behind this community the whole way. So when a major tragedy like this occurs, we feel a responsibility as a country to help. I hope that my colleagues on the HELP Committee will agree that the little boys and girls at Sandy Hook Elementary shouldn’t be asked to walk the same halls where their classmates were (lost).”
The measure would authorize schools to apply for funding through the existing School Emergency Response to Violence (SERV) grant program for site construction in the wake of mass tragedies, and allow for federal assistance to Sandy Hook Elementary School for its recently approved reconstruction project.
Administered by the US Department of Education, the SERV grant provides federal assistance to communities after traumatic violent events. While this grant program already provides much-needed funds for mental health counseling and other assistance, current law prohibits the SERV grant from being used for building construction.
The underlying bill, which reauthorizes the Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA), heads next to the full Senate for consideration.