A bill in Congress would dedicate funding for facilities repairs that will make them pandemic-safe.
According to a Government Accountability Office report published last summer, more than half of all public school districts in America need significant repairs to their HVAC systems. That’s as true today as it was in 2020 when the study was released, and it was true the year before that … when there wasn’t a national debate about how to reopen schools during a pandemic event that won’t increase the risk of circulating the Covid-19 virus among students, teachers, and their surrounding communities.
There’s no better time to pay for those repairs than now, some in Congress say. Rep. Bobby Scott (D-VA) and others introduced the Reopen and Rebuild America’s Schools Act in the House in January, which would dedicate $100 billion in grants and $30 billion in bond authority for high poverty school districts to make facilities repairs. High poverty districts are the kind that are far likelier, according to the GAO report, to rely on state funding to pay for facility repairs and maintenance than wealthier districts. And that’s money many states don’t have, as their own budgets have been drained by the ongoing economic slowdown the pandemic has caused.
We talk a lot about the importance of infrastructure repair, and we’re often talking about roads, bridges and water systems. But what’s more visible public American infrastructure than our public school system? As Cat Adams wrote last year:
While the safety of America’s schools has obvious implications for our nation’s youth, so too does it for the rest of the population. Schools play a critical role in not only for students, but also for the community at large as they frequently serve as polling locations and emergency shelters.
We need these places, and we need them to be safe enough that we can send our kids into them without fear that they’re gonna get sick. We think this kind of infrastructure spending is a good idea – and even a great one when we attach Buy America rules to it so the benefits of this spending flows to American manufacturers and workers.