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Building of new school facilities is neglected with Build Back Better, says AASA

In response to the release of the Democrats’ reconciliation bill known as the Build Back Better Act, AASA, The School Superintendents Association, has issued the following response. It highlights the features supporting teachers and students that AASA particularly appreciates while pointing out the issues that are not funded, namely the need for new and/or renovated school facilities in lower-income districts.

“Build Back Better is an historic investment in education. AASA is appreciative of the many ways it will support the work our members do in educating the nations’ K-12 public school students. 

“Specifically, we support provisions of the bill that would invest in:

  • Early childhood and pre-K programs that will ensure that children begin kindergarten ready and able to learn;
  • Building an adequate educator pipeline to avoid future staffing shortages;
  • Expanding districts’ ability to offer free meals and enable millions more students to access nutritious meals at school, and; 
  • The continued commitment to closing the homework gap. 

“We are grateful for the bill’s many investments that will better the lives of K-12 students and educators.
“However, BBB also represents a significant missed opportunity: The absence of $100 billion in grant funding to build new school facilities in high-poverty communities and ensure children in America can attend public schools free of lead, mold, asbestos and with working bathrooms, heating and air-conditioning systems, leak-proof roofs and functioning windows, among other things.

“Superintendents understand the complexity of negotiation and that frequently a deal that no one likes is the deal that gets done. We understand the importance and reality of compromise and coming together to get a bill over the finish line, but we are deeply disappointed to find not a dollar allocated to school facilities despite President Biden’s campaign promise to fund $100 billion for new school facilities and House Democrats inclusion of $82 billion for this purpose in their bill.

“This is the not the first-time schools have been excluded from a major infrastructure bill; we saw this happen 12 years ago with the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (ARAA) in 2009. Yet, according to the 2021 State of Our Schools Report, school district facilities are being underinvested at the rate of $85 billion a year. Members of Congress cannot keep punting on funding the second largest infrastructure sector in the country and claim they want global competitiveness, high quality educators and equitable academic outcomes for students of color.

“In light of the omission in funding for school facilities, it is critical districts have more time to leverage their American Rescue Plan investment to re-build and construct safer, healthier school environments. If a new federal school construction program is off the table, then districts must have more time to utilize current federal investments to improve school facilities is essential.”

AASA, The School Superintendents Association, founded in 1865, is the professional organization for more than 13,000 educational leaders in the United States and throughout the world. AASA’s mission is to support and develop effective school system leaders who are dedicated to equitable access for all students to the highest quality public education.