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Budget & Finance

School Infrastructure Spending Plan Introduced by House Democrats

By Andrew Ujifusa — May 17, 2017 2 min read
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Legislation that would direct more than $100 billion into building and upgrading school infrastructure around the country was introduced Wednesday by Rep. Bobby Scott, D-Va., the House education committee’s top Democrat.

The Rebuild America’s Schools Act of 2017 would be tailored for schools in high-poverty areas, and would direct money to high-speed broadband internet as well as school construction. In a summary of the legislation, Scott and other Democratic lawmakers also said the bill would create 1.9 million jobs—that latter figure is via an estimate from the Economic Policy Institute, a think tank that leans left on economic and labor issues.

“We know that poor school facility conditions impact teaching and learning and disproportionately plague schools that serve low-income and minority students,” Scott said in a statement about the bill. “On the anniversary of [the Brown v. Board of Education school desegregation decision from the Supreme Court], we must recommit to fulfilling its decades’ old promise—that all students have access to equal educational opportunity, including equal access to safe and modern learning facilities.”

Democrats also highlighted a 2014 study from the Institute of Education Sciences that schools would need $197 billion to be brought up to good condition. That study was based on a survey of facilities coordinators and others at districts representing 1,800 schools around the country from the 2012-13 school year. The IES survey also found it was an average of 44 years since the construction of the main instructional building at schools.

Scott’s bill would institute $70 billion in federal grants for school infrastructure upgrades and another $30 billion in tax credits for that purpose. However, not all the money would come from Washington. The legislation envisions leveraging additional state and local resources to reach $107 billion. The bill would also create a national database for information about the state of public school facilities.

The legislation has six other Democratic lead co-sponsors in the House, but no Republican lead co-sponsors. In January, Senate Democrats introduced their own $75 billion infrastructure blueprint to improve school infrastructure. The National Council on School Facilities has made its own push for new school infrastructure money.

A significant spending bill backed by Democrats doesn’t necessarily stand a great chance of passing Congress. However, if President Donald Trump’s administration does ultimately craft a detailed infrastructure spending plan, there’s at least a theoretical chance school construction could get a boost in some fashion. Trump has indicated interest in a general infrastructure spending program to the tune of $1 trillion.

Read a fact sheet about the bill.