PAWTUCKET, RI – During a tour of local schools in Pawtucket and Central Falls today, U.S. Senator Jack Reed got a firsthand look at some of the challenges students, teachers, and principals face when it comes to school infrastructure and how it affects classroom productivity and health.

Senator Reed, who was joined on the school tours by Pawtucket Mayor Donald Grebien and Central Falls Mayor James Diossa, says that from leaky roofs, to aging pipes, to faltering heating and cooling systems, the condition of school infrastructure has a direct impact on classroom learning environments, and given the enormous scope of need, the federal government needs to step up and be a partner in upgrading public school infrastructure.   

“Today, the mayors and I saw some areas of need, as well as members of the community, teachers, and parents all coming together and pitching in to deliver the best for our kids, improve our schools, and make a positive difference.  And our message today is: The federal government must pitch in too,” said Senator Reed.  “There is a critical need for new federal investment in school infrastructure.  Public schools are essential institutions -- they are foundational to our democracy and cornerstones of our economy.  They educate and prepare children to achieve their full potential and serve as community hubs Public schools are public infrastructure.  And we should invest in them just as we invest in roads and bridges”

"Senator Reed’s Rebuild America’s Schools Act is an important step in upgrading the public-school infrastructure in Rhode Island and around our nation,” said Mayor James. A. Diossa.  “We cannot allow our schools to be left in poor conditions because we put our student’s safety at risk and these environments affect how they perform in the classroom. I thank Senator Reed for his leadership and stand behind his efforts to invest in our schools.”

Senator Reed recently introduced the Rebuild America’s Schools Act, a proposal to invest $100 billion in the physical and digital infrastructure of schools across America. 

Reed’s bill would provide $70 billion in direct federal funding for school repairs and rebuilding, along with $30 billion in tax-credit bonds.  The bill would authorize new federal grants for communities like Pawtucket and Central Falls to build new schools and repair existing ones, and develop a national database on the current condition of public schools.

About half of the nation’s public schools are at least 50 years old, and a 2014 U.S. Department of Education report estimated it would cost $197 billion to bring all public schools into “good” condition.

A 2016 “State of Our Schools” report found that collectively, the United States is spending $46 billion less annually on school construction and maintenance than is necessary to ensure safe and healthy public school facilities.

The Rhode Island School Building Task Force issued a study showing $627 million is needed to reach the “warm, safe and dry” criteria for Rhode Island public schools and found that $2.2 billion would be needed to bring schools to good condition.  In November, Rhode Islanders voted in favor of a plan to borrow $250 million to upgrade school buildings across the state.  And Pawtucket voters overwhelmingly approved “Question 4,” a city bond plan to invest millions in local schools.  Statewide, Governor Gina Raimondo and Treasurer Seth Magaziner have announced plans to invest $1 billion in school infrastructure over the next decade.

Reed unveiled the Rebuild America’s Schools Act in the U.S. Capitol last week with Congressman Bobby Scott (D-VA), Chairman of the House Education and Labor Committee.  He is working to include investments for school infrastructure in any major infrastructure bill that moves through Congress.

There is growing bipartisan consensus to start investing more federal resources in public education.  A recent poll conducted by Politico/Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health, 84% of Democrats and 65% of Republicans said increasing K-12 funding is an “extremely important priority” for the 116th Congress.

Today’s tour included stops at Captain Hunt School in Central Falls and Henry J. Winters Elementary School in Pawtucket, which is slated to close at the end of the year.

SUMMARY - The Rebuild America’s Schools Act (S. 266):

Provides formula funds to states for local competitive grants for school repair, renovation, and construction.  These grants focus assistance on communities with the greatest financial need, encourage green construction practices, expand access to high-speed broadband to ensure that all students have access to digital learning. contain state matching criteria, and outline permissible criteria for spending.  The bill also:

  • Provides $30 billion for Qualified School Infrastructure Bonds (QSIBs), $10 billion each for FY 2020 through FY 2022.
  • Invests in American jobs by requiring the use of American-made iron, steel, and manufactured products.
  • Reinstates and Expands Qualified Zone Academy Bonds (QZABs) for use on school construction.
  • Requires the Government Accountability Office (GAO) to report on projects carried out within two years after enactment with periodic updates.
  • Creates a comprehensive study of the physical condition of public schools at least once every five years.
  • Provides a temporary increase of $100 million for Impact Aid construction.