U.S. Sen. Tina Smith Announces Support of Bill to Rebuild America’s Schools and Create Nearly 2 Million Jobs

Senator Says Legislation Will Help Make Infrastructure Improvements to Schools in Rural and Urban Areas, Expand Access to Broadband

WASHINGTON, D.C. [03/18/19]– U.S. Senator Tina Smith (D-Minn.) believes schools in both rural and urban areas in Minnesota—and across the nation—need strong investments in infrastructure so students can learn in healthy and safe environments, which is why she’s announcing her support for legislation that would provide significant investments to both physical and digital infrastructure in schools across the country. The legislation enjoys widespread support from educators and parent advocacy groups in Minnesota and across the country. 

The Rebuild America’s Schools Act would create grant and tax bond programs over ten years and create over 1.9 million jobs by bringing high-poverty and minority-serving schools into good condition, and by expanding access to high-speed internet necessary for digital learning.

“This is something I hear time and time again as I meet with Minnesotans across the state: If we want to make sure students in Greater Minnesota, and urban areas, are able to get the high-quality education necessary to prepare for their futures, we have to make sure students, teachers, and administrators are set up for success with safe learning environments.” said Sen. Smith, a member of the Senate Education Committee. “Students in schools across Minnesota and our country deserve quality school facilities and the ability to connect to digital learning regardless of what district they live in. This legislation would make the investments necessary to create opportunity for students while also creating good, American jobs.”

“This would be a game changer for us,” said Jeff Elstad, Owatonna Public Schools Superintendent. “We are a district that continues to struggle with the tax burden we put on our residents because we do not have a large tax base to pay for building bond referendums.  We are putting a $116 million bond to our voters on May 14 to build a new high school to replace a high school that is nearly 100 years old and does not support the career-ready programming we need to offer our students. A larger district has an advantage of passing a bond referendum because of their larger tax base and an almost cost neutral impact. Any federal help we could get to defray the cost to our local taxpayers would be so beneficial.”

“Fergus Falls (MN) Public Schools supports the Rebuild America’s Schools Act. As an example of our school district’s facility needs, two of our three elementary buildings were built with WPA funds in 1937 and the other was built in 1957. The size of classrooms and infrastructure needs are much different as is the delivery of classroom instruction. Our District is also short on space due to enrollment growth, we are forced to lease space for early childhood education. Additional funds would allow us to build one PK-5 grade elementary building to solve our issues for the next generation of learners. Thank you for supporting The Rebuild America’s Schools Act of 2019,” said Jerry Ness, Fergus Falls Public Schools Superintendent.

“We know students learn best in healthy and safe schools where they have the 21st century tools to support their education,” said Heather Starks, Minnesota PTA President. “Minnesota PTA is pleased to have Senator Tina Smith’s support on the Rebuild America’s Schools Act of 2019. We believe this bill will provide important resources to address the infrastructure challenges faced by Minnesota’s schools in both rural and urban areas, and provide increased access to high-speed broadband that will open new worlds of information to students across Minnesota.”

The Rebuild America’s Schools Act would invest over $100 billion and create over 1.9 million jobs by addressing critical physical and digital infrastructure needs in schools. This bill would:

·       Create a $70 billion grant program and $30 billion tax credit bond program targeted at high-poverty schools with facilities that pose health and safety risks to students and staff.

·       Leverage federal, state, and local resources for an overall investment of $107 billion, creating over 1.9 million jobs based on an Economic Policy Institute analysis that each $1 billion spent on construction creates 17,785 jobs.

·       Develop a comprehensive national database on the condition of public school facilities; such a national database currently does not exist and would provide much-needed insight into the condition of our public schools.

·       Make investments in broadband to ensure that public schools have the reliable and high-speed internet access students need for digital learning.

This legislation is supported by American Federation of Teachers, Association of Educational Service Agencies, Association of School Building Administrators International, Californians for School Facilities, Council of Great City Schools, Healthy Schools Network, International Union of Operating Engineers, National Association of Elementary School Principals, National Association of Federally Impacted Schools, National Association of Secondary School Principals, National Education Association, National PTA, National Rural Education Advocacy Consortium, National Rural Education Association, Organizations Concerned About Rural Education, Public Advocacy for Kids, Rebuild, America’s Schools, Rural School and Community Trust, Secure Schools Alliance, Teach Plus, Twenty-First Century Schools Fund, and the U.S. Green Building Council.