With Outdated Schools Crumbling, Democrats Say Now is the Time to Invest in Upgrading School Infrastructure to Enhance Safety & Raise Student Achievement
Bicameral letter requests at least $100B in federal funding be included in $3.5 trillion reconciliation package for local school construction, renovation, and repairs
WASHINGTON, DC -- Outdated school buildings in poor condition are barriers to a good education, and taxpayers can't afford to kick this multi-billion dollar per year can down the road any longer.
With local school districts facing increased costs, aging school infrastructure, and an urgent need for schools to alleviate crowded classrooms and ensure adequate fresh air ventilation to help reduce COVID-19 transmission, U.S. Senator Jack Reed (D-RI) and Congressman Donald Norcross (NJ-01) today led over 90 members of Congress in urging Congressional leaders to prioritize the inclusion of federal dollars to boost school infrastructure nationwide as part of this once-in-a generation investment in the nation’s critical infrastructure.
Noting that the crisis with crumbling school infrastructure predates the pandemic and is a threat to the health and well-being of students and teachers and undermines academic achievement, 91 members of Congress penned a joint letter to House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (CA-12) and Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY) urging the inclusion of at least $100 billion in federal funds to boost school construction.
“An investment of at least $100 billion in school facilities will be critical to achieving the full promise of the American Families Plan for our middle and working class communities. Without an upgrade to school facilities, these communities will struggle to implement universal preschool, expand school nutrition programs, achieve climate resiliency, close the digital divide, and recruit and retain educators. Furthermore, failure to adequately invest in school facilities will undermine our march towards racial and economic justice, as these are the communities with the lowest tax bases and fewest resources for capital improvements,” the 91 members of Congress wrote.
The letter also notes: “Currently, our school facilities are not making the grade. School infrastructure earned a D+ on the American Society of Civil Engineers Report Card for America’s Infrastructure. A June 2020 report from the Government Accountability Office (GAO) on the state of school infrastructure—the agency’s first report on the subject since 1996—found that 54 percent of school districts across the country must replace or update major systems in more than half their buildings. The 2016 State of Our Schools Report found that state and local governments spend $46 billion less than what is required to update and maintain their school facilities.”
Many of the signers of the letter teamed up with Senator Reed and Congressman Bobby Scott (VA-03), Chairman of the House Committee on Education and Labor Committee, and Congressman Norcross earlier this year to introduce the bicameral Reopen and Rebuild America’s School Act of 2021.
The bill will create a federal-state partnership for school infrastructure. It will provide, over ten 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.
Specifically, the Reopen and 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 2022 through 2024, 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 Reopen and 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.
Today’s school infrastructure letter was signed by:
In addition to Senator Reed, the letter is cosigned by U.S. Senators: Brian Schatz (D-HI), Richard Durbin (D-Il), Chris Van Hollen (D-MD), Alex Padilla (D-CA), Jeanne Shaheen (D-NH), Elizabeth Warren (D-MA), Ben Ray Lujan (D-NM), Benjamin Cardin (D-MD), Corey Booker (D-NJ), Tina Smith (D-MN), Raphael Warnock (D-GA), Edward Markey (D-MA), Amy Klobuchar (D-MN), Mazie Hirono (D-HI), Jacky Rosen (D-NV), Jeff Merkley (D-OR), Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY), Debbie Stabenow (D-MI), Margaret Hassan (D-NH), Ron Wyden (D-OR), Tammy Baldwin (D-WI), Catherine Cortez Masto (D-NV), Martin Heinrich (D-NM), Richard Blumenthal (D-CT), and Sheldon Whitehouse (D-RI).
In addition to Congressman Norcross, members of the U.S. House of Representatives who signed the letter include: Betty McCollum (D-MN), Adam Smith (D-WA), Adriano Espaillat (D-NY), Alma Adams (D-NC), Andy Levin (D-MI), Anthony Brown (D-MD), Bill Foster (D-IL), Bonnie Watson Coleman (D-NJ), Julia Brownley (D-CA), Carolyn Maloney (D-NY), André Carson (D-IN), Jaquin Castro (D-TX), Chellie Pingree (D-ME), David Cicilline (D-RI), Sharice Davids (D-KS), Debbie Dingell (D-MI), Dina Titus (D-NV), Dwight Evans (D-PA), Earl Blumenauer (D-OR), Elaine Luria (D-VA), Eric Swalwell (D-CA), Frank Mrvan (D-IN), Frederica Wilson (D-FL), Grace Napolitano (D-CA), Gregorio Sablan (D-MP), Raul Grijalva (D-AZ), Gwen Moore (D-WI), Steven Horsford (D-NV), Jahana Hayes (D-CT), Jan Schakowsky (D-IL), Jason Crow (D-CO), Pramila Jayapal (D-WA), Joe Courtney (D-CT), Joe Morelle (D-NY), John Garamendi (D-CA), Al Lawson (D-FL), Josh Harder (D-CA), Juan Vargas (D-CA), Marcy Kaptur (D-OH), Kathy Castor (D-FL), Kathy Manning (D-NC), Kweisi Mfume (D-MD), Connor Lamb (D-PA), Lucy McBath (D-GA), Marie Newman (D-IL), Mark DeSaulnier (D-CA), Mark Pocan (D-WI), Grace Meng (D-NY), Mondaire Jones (D-NY), Jerrold Nadler (D-NY), Nanette Barragán (D-CA), Niekma Williams (D-GA), Donald Norcross (D-NJ), Eleanor Holmes-Norton (D-DC), Ruben Gallego (D-AZ), Linda Sánchez (D-CA), John Sarbanes (D-MD), Seth Moulton (D-MA), Stephen F. Lynch (D-MA), Susan Wild (D-PA), Suzanne Bonamici (D-OR), Ted Lieu (D-CA), Teresa Leger Fernandez (D-NM), and William R. Keating (D-MA).