Washington, D.C. – Oregon’s U.S. Senator Jeff Merkley has joined a group of his colleagues to introduce the Reopen and Rebuild America’s Schools Act—legislation that would invest $130 billion in modernizing classrooms across the country and would help schools complete critical physical and digital infrastructure upgrades.
Crumbling, outdated school infrastructure makes it tougher for students, teachers, and staff to safely return to school for in-person instruction.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.
“The past year has been tough on all of us—especially our students and educators. But we can’t let this pandemic impact our children’s futures by robbing them of a quality education,” said Merkley. “Upgrading our schools’ campuses and digital infrastructure while creating American jobs is a win-win as we continue to do all we can to build a strong foundation for our communities, so we can make it through this pandemic and thrive on the other side.”
The bill will create a federal-state partnership for school infrastructure that would provide, over 10 years, a total of $130 billion in direct grants and school construction bonds to help fill the annual gap in school facility capital needs, while creating nearly 2 million jobs.
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 Republican Tax Cuts and Jobs Act. The legislation also eases the matching requirements and expands the authority and eligible purposes of QZABS to allow local education agencies to construct, rehabilitate, retrofit, or repair school facilities.
The Reopen and Rebuild America’s Schools Act also supports American workers by ensuring that projects use American-made iron, steel, and manufactured products and meet labor standards.
In addition to Merkley, the legislation is cosponsored by U.S. Senators Jack Reed (D-RI), Sherrod Brown (D-OH), Cory Booker (D-NJ), Benjamin Cardin (D-MD), Catherine Cortez Masto (D-NV), Sheldon Whitehouse (D-RI), 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), and Debbie Stabenow (D-MI).