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Kaine & Colleagues Push For $130B Funding Boost For Local School Infrastructure

WASHINGTON, D.C. – U.S. Senator Tim Kaine joined Senator Jack Reed in introducing the Reopen and Rebuild America’s Schools Act, a companion to legislation introduced by Congressman Bobby Scott in the House. The bill would invest $130 billion over ten years to modernize K-12 classrooms across the country and help schools upgrade their physical and digital infrastructure. Funds will be provided through direct grants and school construction bonds to help fill the gap in school facility capital needs while creating nearly two million jobs. 

“The Commonwealth has some of the best public education facilities in the country, and this legislation will help to keep it that way while modernizing schools in need of improvement,” Kaine said. “This legislation will make critical infrastructure investments to improve buildings and expand high-speed broadband internet, ensuring that students have access to both digital and in-class learning post-pandemic.” 

Crumbling, outdated school infrastructure makes it tougher for students, teachers, and staff to safely return to school for in-person instruction. Comprehensive school modernization planning is a critical component of helping post-pandemic K-12 schools become stronger and more sustainable than before the COVID-19 crisis. During the Great Depression, the federal government, through the Works Progress Administration, financed nearly 4,400 new schools and renovated thousands of other public school facilities between 1935 and 1940. But today, most of the nation’s schools are more than 50 years old and in need of repairs. A June 2020 Government Accountability Office (GAO) report found that over half (54 percent) of school districts nationwide need to update or replace multiple systems in their schools, such as heating, ventilation, air conditioning (HVAC), or plumbing. 

Specifically, the Reopen and Rebuild America’s Schools Act will provide $100 billion in formula funds to states for local competitive grants for school repair, renovation, and construction. States will focus assistance on communities with the greatest financial need, encourage green construction practices, and expand access to high-speed broadband to ensure that all students have access to digital learning.  

The bill would also provide $30 billion for qualified school infrastructure bonds (QSIBs), $10 billion each year from fiscal years 2022 through 2024, and restore the Qualified Zone Academy Bonds (QZABS) that were eliminated in the 2017 Republican tax law. The legislation also eases matching requirements and expands the authority and eligible purposes of QZABS to allow local education agencies to construct, rehabilitate, retrofit, or repair school facilities.  

As a member of the Senate Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions (HELP) Committee, and co-chair of the Senate Career and Technical Education Caucus, Senator Kaine has long focused his efforts on supporting public education institutions. In May 2020, Kaine introduced legislation to help ensure adequate home internet connectivity for K-12 students during the coronavirus pandemic. 

This legislation is cosponsored by U.S. Senators Sherrod Brown (D-OH), Cory Booker (D-NJ), Benjamin Cardin (D-MD), Catherine Cortez Masto (D-NV), Sheldon Whitehouse (D-RI), Jeff Merkley (D-OR), Mazie K. Hirono (D-HI), Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY), Chris Van Hollen (D-MD), Jacky Rosen (D-NV), Tina Smith (D-MN), Chris Murphy (D-CT), Jeanne Shaheen (D-NH), Amy Klobuchar (D-MN), Ben Ray Luján (D-NM), Bob Casey (D-PA), Dick Durbin (D-IL), Elizabeth Warren (D-MA), Richard Blumenthal (D-CT), Maggie Hassan (D-NH), Tammy Duckworth (D-IL), Martin Heinrich (D-NM), Christopher Coons (D-DE), Patrick Leahy (D-VT), Bernie Sanders (I-VT), and Debbie Stabenow (D-MI).