One of the hottest topics over the past few months has been President Biden’s Infrastructure and Jobs Act. This bill includes $1.2 trillion dollars in spending for various infrastructure projects throughout the country including several that will greatly impact our nation’s schools.
The bipartisan bill, which has already been passed in the Senate 69-30, has now moved on to the House where Democrats hope to secure its future after they pass a $3.5 trillion Reconciliation Bill first.
While both bills aim to tackle many of the infrastructure problems in the United States, such as environmental remediation, highway congestion mitigation, improving roads and bridges, they have also earmarked billions of dollars to improve conditions in school districts across the country.
As it stands, the four 4 areas where schools will benefit from this bill are:
- Internet Access
- Physical School Buildings
Transportation – Every school year, an estimated 25 million schoolchildren breathe in toxic fumes as they ride to and from school each day.
Of the 475,000 school buses in the U.S, 95% of them use diesel fuel vs regular gas. Breathing in these diesel fumes regularly can cause coughing, eye, nose, and throat irritation, asthma attacks, and an increased risk for lung cancer.
As part of the Clean School Bus Program, $5 billion will be spent over a period of 5 years to help districts replace their diesel school buses with new electric buses. These electric buses will be American-made, zero-emission vehicles that will provide cleaner and safer transportation for school children.
Internet Access – A major problem that was clearly highlighted by the COVID-19 pandemic was the lack of access to fast and affordable internet for many students around the country. As school districts were forced close schools and put classes and assignments online, school administrators and teachers quickly realized that many kids in their districts did not have reliable internet access at home.
The Infrastructure and Jobs Act creates an Affordable Connectivity Program at an overall cost of $65 billion. This new program would connect both rural and low-income communities to high-speed internet and extend the benefits first established in the temporary Emergency Broadband Benefit in 2020. This would permanently provide discounted broadband internet service to low-income households that meet the qualifications.
Physical School Buildings – Many school buildings in the U.S are in a state of disrepair with an incredible 53% needing major upgrades and renovations. Repairing these buildings includes things repairing or replacing roofs, upgrading or a full replacement of HVAC systems, improving the ventilation system and upgrading playgrounds with safer equipment.
Upwards of $130 billion of the Reconciliation Bill would go toward building upgrades and new construction for school districts across the country.
Water – The Flint Water Crisis highlighted a huge infrastructure issue in the U.S., access to clean drinking water. An estimated 10 million American households and 400,000 schools and daycare centers around the country still have corroded lead pipes. It’s been known for over one hundred years that lead pipes carrying drinking water can cause lead poisoning, which contaminate the drinking water and lead to long-term health consequences.
The Infrastructure bill includes $15 billion to replace these lead pipes and provide fresh drinking water in all schools.
Overall, if President Biden’s Infrastructure Bill passes, education will be a large component, but there are still major hurdles to overcome before this bill passes, if it passes. Today we continue to battle the COVID pandemic so we need to be looking at the health and safety of our children. Virtual education using technology built specifically for teaching and learning, can offer our educational system a great alternative as we bring our kids back to school.