WASHINGTON, D.C.—Delegate Gregorio Kilili C. Sablan (Ind-MP), chairman of the House Education and Labor Subcommittee on Early Childhood, Elementary, and Secondary Education, joined Committee Chairman Robert C. “Bobby” Scott (D-VA) and 152 other Democrats today in introducing H.R. 865, the Rebuild America’s Schools Act.
The bill would fund $70 billion in grants and $30 billion in bonds to replace or repair school facilities and equip classrooms for digital learning. In addition to the educational benefits, the bill would create more than 1.9 million good-paying jobs.
Schools in the Marianas and other U.S. insular areas are particularly in need of repair and rebuilding. Even before Typhoon Mangkhut and Super Typhoon Yutu struck the Marianas and Hurricanes Irma and Maria hit the U.S. Virgin Islands, an Army Corps of Engineers evaluation put the cost of deferred maintenance at island schools at $177 million. The Rebuild America’s Schools Act sets aside $350 million for island schools.
“The last big investment by the federal government in our public schools was the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act, when the Democrats were last in the majority,” Congressman Sablan said. “$44.4 million went to the Marianas to modernize classrooms, strengthen technology infrastructure, and pay teachers in 2009. Ten years later, it is time for more investment in our schools.”
The Rebuild America’s Schools Act would:
• Create a $70 billion grant program and $30 billion tax credit bond program targeted at high-poverty schools with facilities that pose health and safety risks to students and staff.
• Leverage federal, state, and local resources for an overall investment of $107 billion, creating over 1.9 million jobs, based on an Economic Policy Institute analysis that each $1 billion spent on construction creates 17,785 jobs.
• Develop a comprehensive national database on the condition of public school facilities; such a national database currently does not exist and would provide much-needed insight into the condition of our public schools.
• Expand access to high-speed broadband to ensure that public schools have the reliable and high-speed Internet access they need for digital learning.
The Rebuild America’s Schools Act is being introduced as students, teachers, and parents throughout the country are demanding more funding for public education.
“Students and educators across the country go to school every day in crumbling buildings that are either unsafe, not equipped with essential resources, or both,” said Chairman Robert C. “Bobby” Scott of the House Committee on Education and Labor.
“The Rebuild America’s Schools Act is an important step toward ensuring that every student, regardless of their family’s wealth, can attend a safe, welcoming, and high-quality public school. This bill would strengthen our communities today by employing local workers and strengthen our communities in the future by setting a strong foundation for all students to reach their potential.”
The legislation enjoys widespread support among educators and trade workers. Lily Eskelsen Garcia, a sixth grade teacher from Utah who serves as president of the three-million member National Education Association, said current conditions in classrooms are “unacceptable.” She cited leaky roofs, moldy carpets, asbestos and other health hazards, broken heating or air conditioning systems, and facilities that are infested with cockroaches, rats and other vermin.
“Every public school in America should reflect how much we value our students and educators,” Garcia said. (PR)