By Amanda Litvinov / Photo ©2019 Emily Bricker/NEA.
Educators are embracing a plan by House and Senate Democrats to invest more than $100 billion in America’s public school infrastructure.
The Rebuild America’s Schools Act would fund $70 million in grants and $30 million in bonds to help states address critical physical and digital infrastructure needs.
Decaying school buildings and lack of broadband internet are a reality for millions of educators and students across the nation. Schools in poorer rural and urban areas tend to have the worst facilities because they lack local revenue to pay for school upkeep and modernization projects.
Cuts to state education budgets over the last decade have only exacerbated the issue of aging buildings. The #RedForEd movement has brought new attention to infrastructure issues.
Some building problems, such as mold, asbestos, and vermin infestations, even put the health of students and educators at risk.
At an event on Capitol Hill yesterday to introduce the proposal, 6th grade teacher and NEA President Lily Eskelsen García (pictured above) emphasized that conditions in some buildings cause students and educators to miss school.
“The illness most reported for student absences is asthma,” García said. “Neglected buildings are making our students sick. They make educators sick. It takes funding to fix a sick building.”
Attending school in a run-down building has been linked to lower test scores.
A 2014 study by the U.S. Department of Education estimated that it would take $197 billion to bring all public schools up to “good” condition.
More than 19,000 schools serving more than 11.6 million students lack “the minimum connectivity necessary for digital learning,” according to a 2017 report from Education Super Highway.
“The Rebuilding America’s Schools Act is an important step toward ensuring that every student, regardless of their family’s wealth, can attend a safe, welcoming, and high-quality public school,” said Rep. Bobby Scott (D-VA), Chair of the House Committee on Education and Labor.
The plan would also stimulate local economies, creating nearly 2 million good-paying jobs while solving urgent school infrastructure needs, based on an analysis by the Economic Policy Institute.