A bipartisan agreement of a $1 trillion infrastructure package advanced through the U.S. Senate Thursday.
Changes await the bill before it receives a final vote in the Senate, and then in the House of Representatives, and reaches the President’s desk for signing into law.
As negotiations get underway, the National School Boards Association (NSBA) urged congressional leaders to prioritize an investment of at least $130 billion in school facilities to make a strong investment in and accommodate new school construction, science and technology laboratories, career and technical education facilities, and further repairs and upgrades to building systems, such as HVAC and water systems.
“By making our students and future generations the priority for the infrastructure package, a much-needed investment to help sustain and improve our schools and communities can be achieved,” wrote NSBA interim Executive Director and CEO Chip Slaven in a letter to congressional leaders.
Seventeen Republicans joined Democrats in a 67-to-32 compromise vote following weeks of negotiations and scaling down the original $2.3 trillion proposal by the Biden administration.
The August issue of NSBA’s American School Board Journal examined some of the challenges facing school districts with facilities in dire need of renovation, modernization, and replacement. For example, in Victoria, Texas, a 13,700-student district located 125 miles southwest of Houston, several schools are “on life support and sucking” the district’s “maintenance budget to the bone.”
The public school system in Maryland’s rural Caroline County just completed construction of the system’s first new school in more than 40 years.
ASBJ highlights federal research showing that half of the public school districts need repairs to update or replace multiple building systems like heating, ventilation, and air conditioning, and the education research showing that outdated infrastructure negatively impacts students’ academic performance.
The issue also explores the relationship between student achievement and the state of school buildings.
“Throughout the country—and especially in rural communities—our public school facilities are the major service provider for K-12 education, early childhood education, adult education, job training programs, community meetings, storm shelters, voting precincts, vaccination sites, and more,” Slaven’s letter adds. “Hence, a significant federal investment in our country’s school infrastructure is an invaluable asset to the prosperity of our communities for generations to come.”