Press Releases

Owens, Gibson Legislation Invests in Rural Schools at No Cost

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Washington, Feb 8, 2012 | Sean Magers (202-225-4611) | comments
WASHINGTON – Representatives Bill Owens (NY-23) and Chris Gibson (NY-20) introduced legislation today that will help schools in rural areas combat the threat of closure due to decreases in student enrollment. The Strengthening America's Public Schools Through Promoting Foreign Investment Act, invests in rural schools like those in Upstate New York at no cost by easing restrictions in the nonimmigrant F-1 visa program for public secondary schools. These restrictions target public schools by only permitting one year of study for foreign exchange students who pay the full cost of their education, while these same students may attend private and parochial schools with no restrictions.
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Representatives Bill Owens (NY-23) and Chris Gibson (NY-20) introduced legislation today that will help schools in rural areas combat the threat of closure due to decreases in student enrollment.  The Strengthening America's Public Schools Through Promoting Foreign Investment Act, invests in rural schools like those in Upstate New York at no cost by easing restrictions in the nonimmigrant F-1 visa program for public secondary schools. These restrictions target public schools by only permitting one year of study for foreign exchange students who pay the full cost of their education, while these same students may attend private and parochial schools with no restrictions.

“This bill is a no-cost, direct investment in the nation’s rural education system and will give local school officials a wider range of opportunities to keep their schools open and educate the next generation,” said Owens. “Many public schools, particularly those in rural areas, face the threat of closure due to recent decreases in student enrollment and the inability to cover operating costs.  Innovative school districts across the country are ensuring their longevity by increasing enrollment and revenue through recruiting foreign exchange students from around the world who pay for their education.”

“This bill levels the playing field to ensure that our public schools can compete fairly with private and parochial schools for foreign exchange students.  I have heard directly from local educators and school board members about the importance of the F-1 visa program and how they need this commonsense reform,” said Congressman Gibson.  “As a father of three children enrolled in public schools, I am committed to strengthening our local education systems, and this bill is a zero-cost measure to do just that.”

Local public schools need a change to the nonimmigrant F-1 visa program because current rules only allow foreign exchange students to attend these schools for one year.  Allowing foreign students who pay tuition to attend public school in the U.S., to do so for longer than one year will allow for better long-term planning by school districts and help them financially by generating revenue at no cost to the taxpayer.

“If the current F-1 law changes, we have investors willing to build a dorm to house more students.  A dorm means revenue and jobs to a small community in critical need of both. Besides the diversity we have enjoyed, the income F-1 students brings to underutilized rural schools is critical to keeping staff and programs,” said Skip Hults, Newcomb Central School District Superintendent “Having enjoyed 43 students from 21 different foreign countries, our international program has redefined rural Newcomb Central School District academically, culturally, socially and financially.”

“Having the public schools demonstrate an entrepreneurial interest is a great opportunity for all of us,” Owens added. “This legislation will make it easier for our school districts to succeed.”

The legislation is a companion bill to S. 823, introduced in the United States Senate by Senator Charles Schumer. 

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