August 7, 2017

Senators Seek to Lay Foundation for School Construction & Modernization

School Building Improvement Act would provide $100 billion for school repair, renovation, and construction

WASHINGTON, DC – As students across the country get set to head back to school in the coming weeks, U.S. Senator Jack Reed (D-RI) is joining with Senators Sherrod Brown (D-OH), Sheldon Whitehouse (D-RI), Catherine Cortez Masto (D-NV), Maggie Hassan (D-NH), Elizabeth Warren (D-MA), Mazie Hirono (D-HI), Ben Cardin (D-MD), and Dick Durbin (D-IL) in introducing new legislation to help rebuild and modernize schools throughout the nation.  This week, the Senators introduced the School Building Improvement Act of 2017 (S.1674), which would provide $100 billion in federal grants and school construction bonds over the next decade to help build and renovate schools.  Reed’s bill would provide resources to help states upgrade education infrastructure and meet their most pressing school building construction needs while creating an estimated 1.9 million jobs nationally.

“Public schools are essential to the fabric of our communities.  Every student should have access to a school they can be proud of, but too many schools are in desperate need of repairs or replacement.  By providing states with grants and low-cost bonds to meet their school construction and modernization needs, the School Building Improvement Act will strengthen communities and create jobs.  This bill helps lay the foundation for better schools, smart growth, and a brighter future,” said Senator Reed, the Ranking Member of the Appropriations Transportation, Housing and Urban Development, and Related Agencies (THUD) Subcommittee.  “Public schools are crucial to the future success of our nation, and must be included in our national infrastructure strategy.  This bill will provide local communities with the resources they need to invest in high-quality schools.  It will help raise student achievement and spur economic growth by creating jobs today, and preparing our children for the jobs of tomorrow.”

“Students can’t learn in schools that are crumbling around them,” said Senator Brown. “If we want to prepare students for 21st century jobs, we need to invest in 21st century classrooms. That investment will also support good jobs, putting Ohioans to work rebuilding schools with American-made materials.”

“Every child in America deserves a first-class education, and that starts with a classroom that is safe, dry, and warm in the winter and cool in the summer,” said Senator Whitehouse.  “The School Buildings Improvement Act will provide much-needed capital for long overdue upgrades to Rhode Island schools, while creating construction jobs and providing a boost to local economies.”

“Ensuring that our young people are equipped with the skills and critical thinking needed for success in the 21st century innovation economy begins with providing our students with a safe, modern space to learn, grow, and thrive,” Senator Hassan said. “The School Building Improvement Act is critical to those efforts, providing resources to help the Granite State upgrade, repair, and construct our school infrastructure and ensure that all of our students are better prepared for future success.”

“Investing in public schools is investing in the future.  Students do better when they attend well-maintained schools with the kinds of resources that help kids learn and grow,” Senator Warren said. “This bill will be good for Massachusetts: by supporting infrastructure spending on our schools, it strengthens communities and supports our economy.”

“Our children should not be forced to make do with public schools without drinkable water, air conditioning, or access to the internet; they deserve modern learning environments that are conducive to academic success. Maintaining old school buildings means fewer dollars for classroom instruction and academic supports for students,” said Senator Cardin. “I am proud to join with my colleagues to provide our neediest schools with resources necessary to meet their construction and modernization needs. Our children deserve nothing less.”

“Our students deserve the very best, and that includes facilities that meet their needs and provide for a 21st century education. Due in part to state budgets that are shrinking by the day, many public schools across the country have been left in disrepair. I’m proud to introduce this bill with my colleagues, which would provide good paying jobs, strengthen our schools and communities, and prepare our children for brighter futures,” said Senator Durbin.   

Safe, healthy, modern, well-equipped schools are essential for advancing student achievement and ensuring that the next generation is prepared to meet the economic, social, and global challenges.  Currently, however, far too many of the over 50 million students and six million staff who learn and work in U.S. public schools spend their days in facilities that fail to make the grade.  A 2014 Department of Education Study estimated that it would cost $197 billion to bring all public schools into “good” condition.  Nationally, there is also a $38 billion funding gap in annual capital construction and new facility funding, as reported in the 2016 State of Our Schools Report.  Despite the benefits and need, federal funding currently accounts for  just 0.2% of the total current capital investment in our nation’s schools.  The School Building Improvement Act would fill this gap by providing a total of $100 billion over ten years in direct grants and school construction bonds.

Under the bill, $7 billion per year would be provided in formula funds to states for local competitive grants for school repair, renovation, and construction.  School equity would be made a priority as states would focus assistance on communities with the greatest financial needs and ensure equitable access for public charter schools.  The legislation would also provide 30 billion for qualified school infrastructure bonds (QSIBs), $10 billion each year from FY 2018 through FY 2020 and expand the bond authority of and eligible purposes for Qualified Zone Academy Bonds (QZABS) to allow local education agencies to construct, rehabilitate, retrofit, or repair school facilities.

In addition to providing the funds to help fill gaps in school facility construction and bolster educational equity, the School Building Improvement Act would give a needed boost to the nation’s economy by creating an estimated 1.9 million jobs, based on analysis by the Economic Policy Institute that every $1 billion spent on construction generates 17,785 new jobs.

SUMMARY: The School Building Improvement Act:

  • 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, establish equitable access for public charter schools, contain state matching criteria, and outline permissible criteria for spending. 
  • Provides $30 billion for Qualified School Infrastructure Bonds (QSIBs), $10 billion each for FY 2018 through FY 2020.
  • Invests in American jobs by requiring the use of American-made iron, steel, and manufactured products.
  • 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.

The School Building Improvement Act is also supported by numerous education organizations and associations, including: Rebuild America’s Schools; the American Federation of Teachers; Californians for School Facilities; the Council of the Great City Schools; the International Union of Operating Engineers; the National Association of Elementary School Principals; the National Association of Federally Impacted Schools; the National Association of Secondary School Principals; the National Education Association; the National Parent Teacher Association; and North America’s Building Trades Unions.


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