WASHINGTON, DC – School infrastructure has an outsized impact on learning.  To ensure more schools are in good condition, U.S. Senator Jack Reed (D-RI) and U.S. Representative Bobby Scott (D-VA) unveiled a bicameral proposal today that would target new federal infrastructure funding to help local school districts address school building and modernization needs. 

The Rebuild America’s Schools Act of 2023 would improve public school infrastructure and environments to ensure school facilities are safe, healthy, sustainable, and offer positive learning environments for all students. 

The bill will create a federal-state partnership for school infrastructure.  It will provide, over five years, a total of $130 billion in direct grants and school construction bonds to help fill the annual gap in school facility capital needs, while creating nearly two million jobs.  The money and financing would be available to local school districts and would be targeted to physical and digital infrastructure upgrades, with an emphasis on schools of greatest need with facilities that pose health and safety risks to students and staff.

“Improving school infrastructure is critical to the health, safety, and well-being of America’s students and our communities.  Investing in school infrastructure is a moral and economic imperative.  The Rebuild America’s Schools Act would provide dedicated, long-term investments in improving America’s schools and ensuring every student can learn in a safe, healthy, modern classroom.  Passing this bill would help improve school facilities, put more people to work, and improve student academic outcomes,” said Senator Reed.

“Chronic neglect of America’s public schools has forced students and teachers across the country to learn and work in outdated and hazardous school buildings. Moreover, dilapidated and poorly ventilated school facilities pose significant health threats that make it harder for teachers to teach and students to learn,” said Congressman Scott. “The Rebuild America's Schools Act invests $130 billion in our nation’s physical and digital infrastructure, improves students’ academic recovery efforts, and creates more than 2 million jobs over the next five years. It is far past time to improve public education infrastructure.”

For decades, school infrastructure has been underfunded.  National spending for K-12 school buildings falls short by an estimated $85 billion annually, according to a 2021 analysis by the 21st Century School Fund.  The U.S. Government Accountability Office (GAO) reports 54 percent of U.S. school districts need to update or completely replace multiple building systems in their schools, according to a 2020 analysis. 

To improve America’s school infrastructure, the Rebuild America’s Schools Act will provide $100 billion in formula funds to states for local competitive grants for school repair, renovation, and construction.  States will focus assistance on communities with the greatest financial need, encourage green construction practices, and expand access to high-speed broadband to ensure that all students have access to digital learning.

The bill would also provide $30 billion for qualified school infrastructure bonds (QSIBs), $10 billion each year from fiscal years 2023 through 2025, and restore the Qualified Zone Academy Bonds (QZABS) that were eliminated in the Republican Tax Cuts and Jobs Act.  The legislation also eases the matching requirements and expands the authority and eligible purposes of QZABS to allow local education agencies to construct, rehabilitate, retrofit, or repair school facilities.

The Rebuild America’s Schools Act also supports American workers by ensuring that projects use American-made iron, steel, and manufactured products and meet labor standards.

Newer, greener schools are also good for local budgets because renewable energy and energy efficient upgrades can save school districts money that can be reinvested in after-school and summer programs, and the recruitment, hiring, and retention of highly-qualified teachers.

In the Senate, the bill is cosponsored by U.S. Senators Sherrod Brown (D-OH), Richard Blumenthal (D-CT), Cory Booker (D-NJ), Bob Casey (D-PA), Catherine Cortez Masto (D-NV), Tammy Duckworth (D-IL), Dick Durbin (D-IL), Amy Klobuchar (D-MN), Martin Heinrich (D-NM), Mazie K. Hirono (D-HI), Ben Ray Luján (D-NM), Ed Markey (D-MA), Jeff Merkley (D-OR), Chris Murphy (D-CT), Jeanne Shaheen (D-NH), Tina Smith (D-MN), Debbie Stabenow (D-MI), Chris Van Hollen (D-MD), and Sheldon Whitehouse (D-RI).

SUMMARY - The Rebuild America’s Schools Act would:

  • Create a $100 billion grant program and $30 billion tax credit bond program targeted at high-poverty schools with facilities that pose health and safety risks to students and staff.
  • Create over 2 million jobs based on an Economic Policy Institute analysis that each $1 billion spent on construction creates 17,785 jobs.
  • Develop a comprehensive national database on the condition of public school facilities; such a national database currently does not exist and would provide much-needed insight into the condition of our public schools.
  • Leverage existing public programs or public-private partnerships to continue to improve high-speed broadband access that public schools need for digital learning.

The legislation is endorsed by a broad coalition of organizations, including: [Re]Build America’s School Infrastructure Coalition (BASIC); 21st Century School Fund; A4LE:  The Association for Learning Environments; American Federation of State, County, and Municipal Employees (AFSCME); American Federation of Teachers; American Industrial Hygiene Association (AIHA); American Institute of Architects; American School Superintendents Association (AASA); Council of the Great City Schools; Heart of America; International Unions of Bricklayers and Allied Craft Workers; National Association of Energy Service Companies (NAESCO); National Association of Federally Impacted Schools (NAFIS); National Council on School Facilities; National Education Association; Rebuild America’s Schools Coalition; Safe Traces; and the U.S. Green Building Council.

“Public schools are the heart of our communities.  But sadly in too many of those communities, America’s public school facilities are crumbling and in such poor physical condition that they undermine student learning,” said Becky Pringle, President of the National Education Association. “Modernizing school buildings is a necessary investment in our students’ futures and Rebuild America’s Schools Act would take bold steps to making our schools safe places to work and learn.  NEA wholeheartedly supports the Rebuild America’s Schools Act again and applauds Chairman Bobby Scott and Sen. Jack Reed for reintroducing such critical legislation.”

“Every day, millions of students across the country attend schools that put their health and safety at risk—black toxic mold on floors, classrooms without heat, leaking ceilings and contaminated water.  We cannot send our kids to schools in these conditions and expect them to learn and thrive. Our children deserve better,” said American Federation of Teachers President Randi Weingarten.  “Thanks to the leadership of Rep. Bobby Scott and Sen. Jack Reed, Congress can take long-overdue action to address the deteriorating and obsolete school facilities that exist in far too many of our communities.  Rebuilding America’s public schools requires making our school infrastructure a priority and committing resources to back that claim up.”

Ally Talcott, Executive Director of the [Re]Build America’s School Infrastructure Coalition (BASIC), expressed strong support on behalf of the large and diverse coalition advocating for federal investments in school facilities: “We applaud and are grateful for Senator Reed and Ranking Member Scott for their steadfast leadership in support of modernizing our nation’s schools and grounds, especially in our most underserved areas. RASA is the key piece of legislation that, if enacted, would help ensure millions of students and educators learn and work in safe, supportive, and healthy places.”

“Modernizing our public school buildings and grounds so they are healthy, safe, and educationally excellent, energy efficient, environmentally sustainable, and resilient to weather and climate risk is a challenge for our time and responsibility of our time. Without RASA, many of our school districts, particularly small and rural districts, and high-need urban districts, will not be able to modernize their schools–leaving their students and staff in unhealthy, unsafe, and entirely educationally inadequate conditions,” said Mary Filardo, Executive Director of the 21st Century School Fund.

“AIHA commends Members of Congress for reintroducing the Rebuild America’s Schools Act, which would help improve the learning and working conditions of schools throughout the nation. In particular, this bill would improve the indoor air quality, energy efficiency, and water safety of schools while reducing the presence of toxic substances, excessive noise, and other health, safety, and environmental hazards that could impact student learning,” said Lawrence D. Sloan, CEO of the American Industrial Hygiene Association. “The bill would also collect key data on school infrastructure that would help parents, policymakers, and other key stakeholders make informed decisions. AIHA encourages Members of Congress to swiftly pass this critically-needed bill.”