Senators Propose $100 Billion Investment to Rebuild & Repair Schools

February 1, 2019, 11:24 AM HST (Updated February 1, 2019, 11:24 AM)
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Sen. Mazie K. Hirono joined Sens. Jack Reed (D-R.I.), Sherrod Brown (D-Ohio), and 16 of their colleagues, to unveil new legislation aimed at improving school infrastructure in the United States. The bill, the Rebuild America’s Schools Act, would provide $100 billion in federal grants and school construction bonds over the next decade to assist communities in building and renovating schools while creating an estimated 1.9 million jobs.

“Far too many children across the country lack access to suitable learning environments, and many attend schools that are in dire need of renovations and repairs,” said Sen. Hirono. “Although states like Hawaii are working to improve learning environments for their students, more investment is needed to support current efforts that are already underway, and the federal government should play a role. The considerable resources provided by this legislation would help to facilitate much needed improvements to how and where our children learn, and create high-paying jobs in our communities.”

The Rebuild America’s Schools Act establishes formula funds for states to award local communities with competitive grant funding for school repair, renovation, and construction projects through state matching criteria and permissible spending. By focusing on communities with the greatest financial need, schools will also have the ability to expand access to high-speed broadband in order to ensure all students have access to digital learning. The bill also:

  • Provides $30 billion for Qualified School Infrastructure Bonds (QSIBs), $10 billion each for FY 2020 through FY 2022.
  • Invests in American jobs by requiring the use of American-made iron, steel, and manufactured products.
  • Reinstates and 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.
  • Ensures a comprehensive study of the physical condition of public schools at least once every five years.
  • Provides a temporary increase of $170 million for Impact Aid construction.

Joining Sens. Hirono, Reed, and Brown on the bill are Richard Blumenthal (D-Conn.), Bob Casey (D-Pa.), Benjamin L. Cardin (D-Md.), Catherine Cortez Masto (D-Nev.), Tammy Duckworth (D-Ill.), Kamala Harris (D-Calif.), Maggie Hassan (D-N.H.), Kirsten E. Gillibrand (D-N.Y.), Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.), Sheldon Whitehouse (D-R.I.), Jeff Merkley (D-Ore.), Chris Van Hollen (D-Md.), Jacky Rosen (D-Nev.), Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.), Amy Klobuchar (D-Minn.), and Doug Jones (D-Ala.). The bill was also introduced in the House by Congressman Bobby Scott (VA-03), Chairman of the Committee on Education and Labor.

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The American Society of Civil Engineers gave public school buildings across the country an overall grade of D+ in their 2017 report card, and according to a 2016 “State of Our Schools” report, the United States collectively spends $46 billion less annually on school construction and maintenance than is necessary to ensure safe and healthy public school facilities. The report also projected that between FY 2012-2024, Hawai‘i would spend upwards $130 million on new school construction. As it currently stands, federal dollars only cover school repair costs in cases of disasters.

Sen. Hirono has continued to advocate for federal resources to support school infrastructure projects, and during the 115th Congress (2017-2018) cosponsored S. 1674, the School Building Improvement Act, which Sens. Reed and Brown introduced in July 2017 to provide similar investment for school repair, renovation, and construction projects to support public schools in the United States and otherwise promote investment in our nation’s schools. More recently, in January 2018, Sen. Hirono joined Sens. Reed and Brown, Sen. Murkowski (R-Alaska), and several of their colleagues in calling for the Trump Administration to include funding for schools as part of any comprehensive bill to improve our nation’s infrastructure.

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