WASHINGTON, D.C. – With local school districts facing increased costs, aging school infrastructure, and an urgent need for schools and classrooms to alleviate crowded classrooms and ensure adequate fresh air ventilation to help reduce COVID-19 transmission, U.S. Senator Sherrod Brown (D-OH) joined Sen. Jack Reed (D-RI) and Senate Democrats in introducing the Reopen and Rebuild America’s Schools Act.
The bill would invest $130 billion in modernizing classrooms across the country and would help schools upgrade their physical and digital infrastructure. This Reopen and Rebuild America’s Schools Act builds off of Sens. Brown and Reed’s Rebuilding America’s Schools Act of 2019 and the School Building Improvement Act of 2017.
Crumbling, outdated school infrastructure makes it tougher for students, teachers, and staff to safely return to school for in-person instruction. Comprehensive school modernization planning is a critical component of helping post-pandemic K-12 public schools become stronger and more sustainable than before the COVID-19 crisis.
A June 2020 Government Accountability Office (GAO) report found that over half (54 percent) of school districts nationwide need to update or replace multiple systems in their schools, such as heating, ventilation, air conditioning (HVAC), or plumbing.
“Ohio students deserve to go to school in a safe environment that helps them learn and grow,” said Brown. “For years, state and federal governments haven’t provided the necessary investment in our school districts that are now put under further financial strain by the current pandemic. We must invest in our public schools and help them meet the needs of the whole child and the communities they serve.”
U.S. Representative Bobby Scott (D-VA), the Chairman of the House Committee on Education and Labor Committee, introduced companion legislation in the House of Representatives.
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:
- Invest $100 billion in grants and $30 billion in bond authority targeted at public schools with high need and 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;
- Allocate 2022 program dollars on an emergency basis to aid in safely reopening public schools in line with Centers for Disease Control (CDC) public health guidelines—such as for heating, ventilation, and air conditioning (HVAC) systems;
- Require states to develop comprehensive state-wide public databases on the condition of public-school facilities; most states do not track school facility conditions and would provide much-needed insight into the condition of our public schools; and
- Expand access to high-speed broadband to ensure that public schools have the reliable and high-speed Internet access they need for digital learning.
In the Senate, the bill is cosponsored by U.S. Senators: Cory Booker (D-NJ), Benjamin Cardin (D-MD), Catherine Cortez Masto (D-NV), Sheldon Whitehouse (D-RI), Jeff Merkley (D-OR), Mazie K. Hirono (D-HI), Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY), Chris Van Hollen (D-MD), Jacky Rosen (D-NV), Tina Smith (D-MN), Chris Murphy (D-CT), Jeanne Shaheen (D-NH), Amy Klobuchar (D-MN), Ben Ray Luján (D-NM), Bob Casey (D-PA), Dick Durbin (D-IL), Elizabeth Warren (D-MA), Richard Blumenthal (D-CT), Maggie Hassan (D-NH), Tammy Duckworth (D-IL), Martin Heinrich (D-NM), Christopher Coons (D-DE), Patrick Leahy (D-VT), and Debbie Stabenow (D-MI).