School Funding – Part III – The Infrastructure Bill

In a typical year, only 8-10% of school funding comes from the federal government. But that will change this year with the passing of the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act of 2021.

With the passing of this $1.2 trillion plan, a huge influx of cash is about to make its way to school districts around the country over the next 5 years.

With hazards like unsafe drinking water in buildings and school buses that emit toxic fumes, administrators, teachers, and staff members were thrilled to see their voices had finally been heard. Within the next few weeks, many school districts will have their state plans approved, which will release the funding so they can begin to tackle the many problems within their school districts.

What exactly will President Biden’s Infrastructure Plan cover?  The first important issue this plan tackles is to eliminate unsafe drinking water in schools. The amount of school districts with unsafe drinking water in the United States is staggering.  $55 billion of the funds included in this plan are earmarked for removing lead pipes from older school buildings and eliminating the dangerous chemicals currently found in drinking water.

This plan will also address is the unsafe conditions on school buses. Currently, the about  95%   of school buses in the U.S. run on diesel.  These diesel-run buses are releasing toxic fumes into the air and exacerbating many health conditions in children. The infrastructure bill allocates $7.5 billion so school districts can purchase new electric school buses that are much safer and cleaner than their diesel counterparts.

The infrastructure plan also seeks to fix the internet availability and reliability issues that plague many school districts including students’ home access. With $65 billion in funding, all students in the United States will have access to reliable, high-speed internet regardless of where they live.

While this additional funding is certainly a blessing, the money once intended for school modernization is missing from the bill.   $100 billion was deleted from the final version of the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act of 2021.

This money was targeted to revitalize school buildings across the country that are currently in disrepair. Mold and asbestos remediation, updating heating and cooling systems, installing air filtration systems, replacing leaking roofs, and upgrading electrical and plumbing systems are all examples of repairs that are desperately needed in many of our schools. This was a huge blow because school districts can’t afford to fix their crumbling buildings and failing systems without extra help from the federal government.

This goes back to the inequities of funding.  Those buildings that need the most physical upgrades are those in lower income areas where funding is already at the lowest end of the financial support structure.  Again, these students are impacted disproportionately.