$1.2 trillion infrastructure plan looks like another windfall for schools

House is also preparing to work on the Build Back Better Act which would fund IDEA and educator development

The House passed the $1.2 trillion Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act by a 228-206 vote, sending it to President Biden for his signature into law.

If signed into law, the bill, known as H.R. 3684, will provide funding for the removal of lead pipes that supply drinking water to schools and childcare facilities, safe routes to schools programs, expanded broadband access, and clean school bus programs.

The House also agreed to a rule to consider the Build Back Better Act in coming weeks. That measure includes:

  • $112 million in funding for IDEA Part D personnel development grants
  • $112 million each for school leadership development and teacher development grants
  • Funding for childcare and universal pre-K for 3- and 4-year-old children
  • Expanding the Community Eligibility Provision program to expand eligibility for free school meals.

If that bill passes the House, it will then go to the Senate, where it will likely be revised significantly.

Education groups applauded the passage of the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act and called for continued progress on the Build Back Better Act.

“We have the wind at our backs—we are dealing with COVID, adding jobs, and have a second page of history about to be written: child and elder care, pre-K, and climate action in the Build Back Better Act,” said American Federation of Teachers President Randi Weingarten in a statement following the House votes on Nov. 5. “Let’s celebrate tonight’s vote and continue to deliver for the American people who’ve been through so much and yearn to see the light at the end of the tunnel.”

Following are K-12 education-related provisions in the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act:

  • Safe Routes to School: This would establish a program for all K-12 students to “walk and bicycle to school,” make it a “safer and more appealing transportation alternative” that encourages student activity and health, and “facilitate the planning, development, and implementation of projects and activities that will improve safety and reduce traffic, fuel consumption, and air pollution in the vicinity of schools.” States would receive a minimum allocation of $1 million for the program, and states would be required to use a portion of the funds to employ full-time safe routes to school coordinators.
  • Grants for energy efficiency improvements and renewable energy improvements at public school facilities: This would establish a $500 million competitive grant program for FY 2022 through FY 2026 for a consortium of a local educational agency and one or more schools, nonprofit or for-profit agencies, or community partners with the “knowledge and capacity to partner and assist with energy improvements.” These could include projects that reduce energy costs, improve student and teacher health, and support the use of alternatively fueled student transportation, such as refueling stations or purchasing alternatively fueled vehicles used by schools, including school buses and fleet vehicles.
  • Lead contamination in school drinking water: This would establish a $200 million grant program for FY 2022 through FY 2026 for a voluntary program for lead testing, compliance monitoring, and lead reduction for school and child care programs. Funds would be available to states to provide assistance to local educational agencies and public water systems for testing and mitigation, as well as tribal consortia to provide assistance to tribal educational agencies and public water systems.

More from DA: 6 actions district leaders should promote to keep lead out of drinking water 

  • Digital equity: This would provide $240 million for FY 2022 and $300 million for each fiscal year from FY 2023 through FY 2026 for state capacity grants to states to implement their State Digital Equity Plans, which describe how a state will use the funds to provide access to broadband internet and connected devices as well as the information necessary for all citizens, including students and families, to participate in the “society and economy of the United States.”
  • Broadband affordability: This would extend the Emergency Broadband Benefit program authorized by CRRSA and rename it the Affordable Connectivity Benefit. This benefit provides low-cost broadband service to eligible applicants, which include households with a child participating in the National School Lunch Program or the School Breakfast Program, as well as those who attend Community Eligibility schools. Medicaid, Lifeline, and Pell Grant recipients are also eligible to receive the benefit.
  • Clean School Bus program: This would authorize $1 billion per year from FY 2022 through FY 2026 to provide competitive grants and rebates to replace existing school buses with clean school buses or school buses with zero emissions, with priorities for “high-need” local educational agencies; Bureau of Indian Affairs agencies; Title I, Part A eligible LEAs; and serve rural or low-income areas. Fifty percent of funds would be spent on clean school buses, and 50 percent would be spent on zero-emissions school buses.
Charles Hendrix
Charles Hendrix
Charles Hendrix has been writing about federal K-12 education policy, including the Elementary and Secondary Education Act, since 2006, and has in-depth knowledge of Capitol Hill and the federal legislative process. He is a senior editor with LRP Publications and the author of What Do I Do When® The Answer Book on Title I – Fourth Edition. He lives in South Florida with his son and their trusted chiweenie, Junior.

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