On April 16, USGBC took part in a briefing for Congressional staff on the problem of crumbling school infrastructure in the United States. Panelists from USGBC, 21st Century Schools Fund, The Philadelphia Federation of Teachers and more gathered to represent the [Re]Build America’s School Infrastructure Coalition.
The school facilities spending gap is growing.
The infrastructure of our U.S. schools is in dire need of updating and investment, according to the State of Our Schools report, initially published in 2016. Summaries for each state and Congressional district have been updated with 2018 data and made available to members of Congress and their staff. Despite the need for immediate repairs in thousands of facilities across the country, there’s still a projected spending gap for schools of $46 billion each year.
Panelist Jerry Roseman, from the Philadelphia Federation of Teachers, shared images of deteriorating elementary school facilities in his city. Toxins like mold, lead and asbestos are often found in older schools, and newer facilities can also have indoor environmental hazards if they were not built or maintained well. Renovating public schools presents a chance to for the federal government to improve the health and safety of the nation’s students.
Infrastructure investment should include schools.
Next, panelists brought the discussion around to filling the funding gap—a problem that also requires closing the gap between public opinion and legislative action. A recent poll showed that 66 percent of voters feel improving school facilities is an “extremely or very important priority,” yet there is still considerable Congressional debate on the topic.
H.R. 865/S. 266, “The Rebuild America’s Schools Act,” would provide federal funding for public education facilities based on need. The bill would help fund major construction and renovation and require third-party certification like LEED to assist with improving utility performance and indoor environmental quality. With 181 co-sponsors in the House and 25 in the Senate, the bill reflects a growing momentum for school facility investment in both chambers.