Blog

Your Education Road Map

Politics K-12®

ESSA. Congress. State chiefs. School spending. Elections. Education Week reporters keep watch on education policy and politics in the nation’s capital and in the states. Read more from this blog.

Federal

What a Bipartisan Infrastructure Agreement Between Biden, Senators Would Mean for Schools

By Evie Blad — June 24, 2021 3 min read
Vice President Kamala Harris tours Thomas Built Buses, Monday, April 19, 2021, in High Point, N.C.
  • Save to favorites
  • Print

An infrastructure deal announced by President Joe Biden and a bipartisan group of senators Thursday does not include money for school facilities, but does include funding for electric school buses, replacing lead pipes to ensure students have clean drinking water, and expanding broadband access.

Advocates for overhauling the nation’s crumbling K-12 buildings still saw an open door for targeted federal school infrastructure funding.

Alongside the $579 billion agreement, Biden said congressional Democrats would pursue a parallel spending package that would include some of his other priorities, like expanded spending for child-care and education.

That separate package, which Biden did not detail, could be passed through a process called reconciliation, which would require a simple majority to pass, allowing for less Republican buy-in. But it would still require support from moderate Democrats like Sens. Joe Manchin of West Virginia and Kyrsten Sinema of Arizona, who have been resistant to some calls for larger federal spending.

In a news conference Thursday, Biden said he wouldn’t sign the infrastructure bill if it was not accompanied by the parallel reconciliation package.

That leaves an opening for advocates calling for federal spending to upgrade and replace aging school buildings, though it’s not clear if that funding will be part of the reconciliation package.

Biden’s initial infrastructure proposal had called for $100 billion in direct grants and bonds to overhaul school facilities.

Schools are governed at the state and local level, and that’s also where they receive a bulk of their funding. That has left some Republicans resistant to including them in an infrastructure package alongside traditional priorities, like roads and bridges, especially as K-12 administrators begin to spend billions of dollars in COVID-19 relief aid.

Electric school buses, lead pipes, broadband make the first cut

Biden announced the infrastructure agreement outside the White House alongside senators from both parties. It came after months of negotiations that centered on the priorities outlined in his American Jobs Plan and American Families Plan.

“Let me be clear,” Biden said. “Neither side got everything they wanted in the deal. That’s what it means to compromise.”

The deal calls for $7.5 billion to help replace thousands of school and transit buses with electric models, about half of what Biden had in his initial proposal.

That’s long been a priority for Vice President Kamala Harris, who pitched an electric school bus plan during her own presidential campaign. In April, she toured an electric bus manufacturer as congressional Democrats pushed for $25 billion in federal spending to purchase them.

The bipartisan agreement also calls for $55 billion in water infrastructure, including a plan to eliminate lead service lines and pipes, “delivering clean drinking water to up to ten million American families and more than 400,000 schools and child-care facilities that currently don’t have it, including in Tribal nations and disadvantaged communities.”

If passed, the agreement would also provide $65 billion to expand broadband access across the country. That’s been a priority for education groups that have sought to close the “homework gap” for students who don’t have reliable home internet connections. It became a greater concern during the COVID-19 pandemic, when schools struggled to connect with those children during extended periods of remote learning.

Biden likened the broadband plan to federal previous efforts to provide electricity to all American households.

The agreement— and the potential parallel reconciliation package— must still clear many hurdles.

Members of Congress who supported the negotiations must pitch the proposal to their peers.

And Democrats will have to forge an intraparty compromise about what to include in the reconciliation package before bringing it to a vote.

Events

English-Language Learners Webinar Helping English-Learners Through Improved Parent Outreach: Strategies That Work
Communicating with families is key to helping students thrive – and that’s become even more apparent during a pandemic that’s upended student well-being and forced constant logistical changes in schools. Educators should pay particular attention
This content is provided by our sponsor. It is not written by and does not necessarily reflect the views of Education Week's editorial staff.
Sponsor
Mathematics Webinar
Addressing Unfinished Learning in Math: Providing Tutoring at Scale
Most states as well as the federal government have landed on tutoring as a key strategy to address unfinished learning from the pandemic. Take math, for example. Studies have found that students lost more ground
Content provided by Yup Math Tutoring
Classroom Technology Webinar Building Better Blended Learning in K-12 Schools
The pandemic and the increasing use of technology in K-12 education it prompted has added renewed energy to the blended learning movement as most students are now learning in school buildings (and will likely continue

EdWeek Top School Jobs

Teacher Jobs
Search over ten thousand teaching jobs nationwide — elementary, middle, high school and more.
View Jobs
Principal Jobs
Find hundreds of jobs for principals, assistant principals, and other school leadership roles.
View Jobs
Administrator Jobs
Over a thousand district-level jobs: superintendents, directors, more.
View Jobs
Support Staff Jobs
Search thousands of jobs, from paraprofessionals to counselors and more.
View Jobs

Read Next

Federal Opinion It’s Not Just the NSBA That’s Out of Touch. There’s a Bigger Problem
Those who influence educational policy or practice would do well to care about what parents and the public actually want.
4 min read
Image shows a multi-tailed arrow hitting the bullseye of a target.
DigitalVision Vectors/Getty
Federal Dept. of Ed., Florida Continue to Battle Over Ban on School Mask Mandates
Federal officials say they’ll intervene if the Florida Dept. of Ed. goes ahead with sanctions on districts with mask mandates.
Ana Ceballos, Miami Herald
2 min read
Florida Commissioner of Education Richard Corcoran speaks alongside Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis, rear right, Fla. Sen. Manny Diaz Jr., left, state legislators, parents and educators, Tuesday, Sept. 14, 2021, at the Doral Academy Preparatory School in Doral, Fla.
Florida Commissioner of Education Richard Corcoran speaks alongside Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis, rear right, Fla. Sen. Manny Diaz Jr., left, state legislators, parents and educators, Tuesday, Sept. 14, 2021, at the Doral Academy Preparatory School in Doral, Fla.
Wilfredo Lee/AP
Federal National School Board Group's Apology for 'Domestic Terrorism' Letter May Not Quell Uproar
The National School Boards Association voices "regret" for how it sought federal aid to address threats and harassment of school officials.
4 min read
Seminole County, Fla., deputies remove parent Chris Mink of Apopka from an emergency meeting of the Seminole County School Board in Sanford, Fla., Thursday, Sept. 2, 2021. Mink, the parent of a Bear Lake Elementary School student, opposes a call for mask mandates for Seminole schools and was escorted out for shouting during the standing-room only meeting.
Deputies remove a parent from an emergency meeting of the Seminole County School Board in Sanford, Fla., after the parent, who opposes a call for mask mandates for Seminole schools, shouts during the standing-room only meeting.
Joe Burbank/Orlando Sentinel via AP
Federal 'A Snitch Line on Parents.' GOP Reps Grill AG Over Response to Threats on School Officials
Attorney General Merrick Garland said his effort is meant to address violent threats against school boards, not to stifle parents' dissent.
5 min read
LEFT: Attorney General Merrick Garland speaks during a House Judiciary Committee oversight hearing of the Department of Justice on Capitol Hill in Washington, Thursday, Oct. 21, 2021. RIGHT: Rep. Jim Jordan, R-Ohio, questions Attorney General Merrick Garland.
Attorney General Merrick Garland, left, speaks during a House Judiciary Committee oversight hearing of the U.S. Department of Justice on Capitol Hill on Thursday, questioned by Rep. Jim Jordan, R-Ohio, right, among others.
Greg Nash via AP, Andrew Harnik/AP