Lindsey Graham says redirected funds for Trump border wall ‘better for school kids’ than new school

Money for Kentucky school construction to be moved to pay for border security

Reis Thebault
Tuesday 19 February 2019 12:02 GMT
Donald Trump declares national emergency to release funds for border wall

The children of Fort Campbell Mahaffey Middle School will indeed have a new construction project to look forward to in the coming year - just maybe not that new schoolhouse they were expecting.

Instead, they might get a border wall - or a fence, or barbed wire, or something like that - about 1,000 miles southwest of their school, which sits on a military base straddling the Kentucky-Tennessee line.

Yes, that border wall.

That's because the $62m (£48m) that was earmarked for the school's construction is among the billions of dollars already appropriated to the Defence Department, the pot of money the Trump administration now wants to redirect to pay for 230 miles of barriers along the southern border as part of the president's national emergency declaration.

And those Kentucky middle schoolers will be better off because of it - at least according to senator Lindsey Graham.

The powerful Republican and outspoken Trump ally said that border barriers top a new school.

"I would say it's better for the middle school kids in Kentucky to have a secure border," Mr Graham said on CBS News' Face the Nation. “We'll get them the school they need, but right now we've got a national emergency on our hands."

However, there are a few people who take issue with Mr Graham's assertion. Namely, Kentucky teachers.

The president of the Kentucky Education Association, the state's teachers union, responded to the senator's comments in a statement to The Washington Post.

"KEA supports any funding that goes towards providing a quality public education to America's students no matter their ZIP code," said Stephanie Winkler, the union chief. "Any actions that take those funds away do a disservice to students, no matter the rationale or reason given."

Alison Lundergan Grimes, Kentucky's Democratic secretary of state, also objected to Mr Graham's comment.

"No…what we need are raises for KY teachers and high speed internet in every classroom," she wrote on Twitter

Money from the Defence Department may be especially valuable in Kentucky, a state that received among the highest shares of its revenue from the federal government in 2017, coming in 13th out of 50 states and the District of Columbia, according to data from the National Education Association.

A spokesperson for Republican Senate majority leader Mitch McConnell told the Louisville Courier Journal that a halt to the school construction project is "a hypothetical," adding that acting defence secretary Patrick Shanahan will determine "what specific funds will be used."

Illinois's Democratic senator Tammy Duckworth said Mr Trump's declaration of a national emergency amounts to a power grab and that taking funding away from those defence projects will ultimately hurt the country.

"To take money away from (the Department of Defence) in order to build this wall that is essentially a campaign promise, I think, is really wrong priorities," Ms Duckworth said on ABC News' This Week. "And I think it's very harmful to the country."

The Washington Post

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