- As part of Public Schools Week, Rep. Bobby Scott (D-Virginia), chairman for the House Committee on Education and Labor, is renewing attention on the Rebuild America's Schools Act, which moved to the House floor after a 26-20 passing vote in committee one year ago. A sister bill sits in the Senate's finance committee.
- The legislation would invest a total of $100 billion in high-poverty schools to improve facilities that pose health and safety risks, in addition to creating a database to track the condition of public schools and expand internet access to close the connectivity gap.
- Instead of voting on the bill as a standalone piece of legislation, though, the House is likely to wrap it into a larger infrastructure package in the works. But whether the $100 billion proposed would change or remain the same is unclear.
In 2016, a State of Schools report found the United States would have to spend an additional $46 billion per year on school construction and maintenance to close the spending gap on school facilities. Two years prior, in 2014, the U.S. Department of Education estimated it would cost $197 billion in total to bring all public schools into good condition, and that the average dollar amount needed was $4.5 million per school.
About 53% of the nation’s schools needed repairs or upgrades at the time.
"On average, K-12 school facilities are nearly 45 years old," Scott said in a press release, noting high-poverty and majority black and brown schools are feeling the strain of underfunding. Decaying school buildings can also result in lead exposure, mold and water damage and pests, posing significant health risks.
"As House Democrats advance a comprehensive infrastructure package, we cannot waste this opportunity to rebuild the physical and digital infrastructure of America’s public schools," Scott said.
The infrastructure package is still in the works, and the House has not yet set a date for a vote.