A long-standing effort to provide low-income schools with federal grants to improve building infrastructure and internet connectivity has been reintroduced in Congress by Democratic U.S. lawmakers with support from Maryland Sen. Chris Van Hollen (D), and others.
According to a Monday press release, the “Rebuild America’s Schools Act” would establish a $100 billion federal grant program and a $30 billion tax credit bond program for high-poverty schools to fund physical and digital infrastructure improvements.
Van Hollen has been a supporter and cosponsor of the initiative when the bill was first introduced in 2019, and then again in 2021. But neither of those previous efforts were successful.
“We must ensure that our students and educators have modern school buildings and facilities that support their success rather than rundown infrastructure that hinders progress,” Van Hollen said in a written statement.
“This legislation will help bring our schools and classrooms into the 21st century, ensuring that they don’t stand in the way of our children’s opportunity to receive a quality education,” he added.
This year, U.S. Sen. Jack Reed (D-R.I.) and U.S. Rep. Bobby Scott (D-Va.) are again leading the legislative effort, and Van Hollen joins more than a dozen other co-sponsors for a third try to get the bill over the finish line.
According to a 2022 report from Maryland’s Interagency Commission on School Construction, the average age of a school in the state is 31 years, with Baltimore City Public Schools having the highest number of aging school buildings.
The effects of aging facilities can impact a student’s ability to learn, according to the press release, as students can miss hours of instruction time due to power outages or bad pipes.
According to the press release, the federal grants would not only go to schools in greatest need for infrastructure repairs, but would also encourage green construction practices and improve access to high-speed broadband internet connection.
The Rebuild America’s Schools Act would also encourage projects to use American-made iron, steel and other manufactured products.
“Chronic neglect of America’s public schools has forced students and teachers across the country to learn and work in outdated and hazardous school buildings. Moreover, dilapidated and poorly ventilated school facilities pose significant health threats that make it harder for teachers to teach and students to learn,” Scott, the House bill sponsor, said in a written statement.