Hirono Proposes $100 Billion Investment to Repair Schools
Sens. Mazie Hirono, Jack Reed, Sherrod Brown, and 16 of their colleagues announced new legislation aimed at improving school infrastructure throughout the country. The bill, the Rebuild America’s Schools Act, would provide $100 billion in federal grants and school construction bonds over the next decade to help build and renovate schools. According to Hironoʻs press secretary, the bill could also create 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. Although states like Hawaiʻi 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,” Sen. Hirono said. “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 allocates funds to local communities for school repair, renovation, and construction projects through state matching criteria and permissible spending. By focusing on communities with the greatest financial need, schools can expand their high-speed broadband 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 fiscal year 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 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.
Sens. Richard Blumenthal, Bob Casey, Benjamin L. Cardin, Catherine Cortez Masto, Tammy Duckworth, Kamala Harris, Maggie Hassan, Kirsten E. Gillibrand, Elizabeth Warren, Sheldon Whitehouse, Jeff Merkley, Chris Van Hollen, Jacky Rosen, Bernie Sanders, Amy Klobuchar, and Doug Jones all joined Sens. Hirono, Reed, and Brown on the bill. Congressman Bobby Scott, chairman of the Committee on Education and Labor, introduced the House version of the bill.
The American Society of Civil Engineers gave public school buildings across the country an overall grade of D+ in their 2017 report card. According to a 2016 “State of Our Schools” report, the US 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, Hawaiʻi would spend upwards of $130 million on new school construction. Federal dollars currently only cover school repair costs in cases of disasters.