Schools Can’t Wait for an Major Investment in Infrastructure

November 19, 2021

On November 15, President Biden signed the infrastructure bill into law, making a historic investment in broadband access, bridges, public transit, clean energy, airports and roads. What that law does not include is an investment in school infrastructure to address the “dismal state” of American schools. 

While we are thrilled the new infrastructure law is a generational investment in protecting the environment, expanding broadband access and repairing our nation’s crumbling roads and public transportation systems, our schools need a once-in-a-lifetime investment as well, and it cannot wait.

The 2021 State of Our Schools Report found that the U.S. is underinvesting in school buildings and grounds to the tune of $85 billion per year. “Underinvestment in capital renewals of existing public schools as well as chronic underfunding of maintenance and repairs sadly remains the rule rather than the exception,” the report notes, also pointing out that “inequity is hard-wired into public education infrastructure.”

When lawmakers were negotiating the infrastructure bill and it became clear that schools would not be included, they committed to putting $100 billion for schools into the companion Build Back Better legislation that is being touted as an investment in “human infrastructure.” Unfortunately, school infrastructure was cut from the negotiations.

The current Build Back Better legislation, which just passed the House, has substantial investments in school nutrition, childcare, universal Pre-K and child tax credits, and we applaud lawmakers for funding those important priorities, directly addressing poverty eradication and centering equity in these important social investments. But we know that nothing less than a historic, generational investment in public school infrastructure will directly address the deep inequities that are part of the foundation for how schools are built and maintained.

Healthy, well-maintained school campuses would support the health, education and long-term wellness of students, promote healthy communities, support local investment and spur job creation. This is true in urban and rural areas, in every state in the country. We cannot build back better if schools are left in the dust.