February 02, 2021

Gillibrand Announces Legislation To Invest Billions In School Infrastructure And Help Cash-Strapped Schools Safely Reopen Under CDC Guidelines

COVID-19 Has Exacerbated Consequences Of Chronic Under-investment In Nation’s Public Schools; Aging Facilities Pose Health And Safety Risks To More Than 2.5 Million Students And 212,000 Teachers Across New York State; Reopen And Rebuild America’s Schools Act Of 2021 Would Invest More Than $100 Billion To Help Schools Make Critical Infrastructure & Systems Updates, Expand Broadband Access To Support Digital Learning

Today, U.S. Senator Kirsten Gillibrand announced legislation that would invest billions in public school infrastructure and help cash-strapped school districts safely reopen under Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) guidelines. The Reopen and Rebuild America’s Schools Act of 2021 would invest more than $100 billion in grant funding to schools with facilities that pose health and safety risks to students and staff, allocate funding for updates to combat the spread of COVID-19, and expand access to reliable, high-speed broadband to continue digital learning.

Reducing air transmission is crucial to limiting the spread of COVID-19, which means that repairing our schools’ aging ventilation systems is essential to safely reopen our schools. Unfortunately, decades of under-investment and, now the economic crisis’ impact on state and local budgets makes these updates even harder to achieve” said Senator Gillibrand. “Repairing crumbling facilities, updating HVAC systems, and getting schools COVID-safe, will cost money that schools  and state and local governments  simply don’t have. The Reopen And Rebuild America’s Schools Act Of 2021 would send a lifeline so that high-poverty school districts can address the unique needs of this crisis and make necessary repairs and renovations that create safe learning and working environments for all students, teachers, and staff. Congress must work together to get our children safely back in schools and I will keep fighting for the resources needed to provide every student with a quality and safe education.”

America’s public schools were in need of significant investment to rebuild aging infrastructure before the pandemic. According to the Government Accountability Office (GAO), 54% of school districts across the country are in need of replacements or updates of major systems in more than half their buildings. Thousands of schools in New York, and across the country, are grappling with the need to make major repairs to ventilation and other systems to protect the health of students and staff, and meet reopening guidelines established by the CDC. However, schools rely on state and local governments for funding, and these administrations are facing massive budget shortfalls that have already resulted in cuts to education budgets — including cuts to programs and staffing. The Reopen and Rebuild America’s Schools Act of 2021 would help fill the funding gap for New York’s public schools so they can safely reopen and make investments in infrastructure that would create good-paying jobs to support the economic recovery. 

Specifically, the Reopen and Rebuild America’s Schools Act of 2021 would:

  • Invest $100 billion in grants and $30 billion in bond authority targeted at high-poverty schools with 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 2021 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; 
  • Provide $100 M for Impact Aid Construction funding to support schools and districts located on federally-owned lands; 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.

A summary of the Reopen and Rebuild America’s Schools Act can be found here. 

Full text of the legislation can be found here.