In the first week of July, the U.S. House of Representatives passed significant funding for school building repairs and improvements as part of H.R. 2, the INVEST in America Act. In a huge step forward for all who advocate for healthier, more efficient schools, the $1.5 trillion infrastructure stimulus bill includes $100 billion in grants to states to reopen and rebuild school buildings. The funding would include requirements for green construction and would be distributed based on a need-based formula, giving necessary, high-quality community assets to low-wealth areas around the country.
The INVEST in America Act included a range of provisions that support green infrastructure and energy efficiency, which are key USGBC priorities. The Center for Green Schools has worked for years alongside USGBC’s advocacy team to educate lawmakers about green school construction and the high level of need for repairs to school infrastructure.
In 2016, the Center joined with the 21st Century School Fund and the National Council on School Facilities (state-level school facilities directors from across the U.S.) to publish the 2016 State of Our Schools Report to outline the huge deficit in annual funding that should be going to school construction and maintenance: $46 billion per year. Recently, the U.S. Government Accountability Office published a survey of school districts that found that 36,000 schools likely need extensive HVAC repairs—during a time when high-functioning ventilation systems are a must for the health and safety of our students and teachers.
The passage of the INVEST in America Act is a big win worth celebrating, but work remains. To become law, of course, the bill would need passage in the Senate and signature by the president. Fundamentally, however, the bill forms a foundation for future investments in infrastructure that should, in the future, include school buildings. The Center for Green Schools has joined with education, labor and environmental groups to continue this advocacy through the [Re]Build America’s School Infrastructure Coalition (BASIC). Find more about the BASIC coalition and read its coverage of the INVEST in America Act.