One of these days (and hopefully soon), the coronavirus will be a distant memory, allowing America’s 50 to 60 million students to safely return to school. But students also deserve to study in safe and healthy classrooms, and these sadly don’t exist in many crumbling U.S. schools.
Decades after they were built, many cash-strapped schools just don’t have the money to make repairs, a point dramatically illustrated when the roofs collapsed at two schools in New Jersey. Some outdated schools feature flaking lead paint, asbestos exposure, mold, rats, broken toilets, and rusty pipes so old they’ve poisoned the water supply. Other buildings lack heat, A/C, or even clean air. One government accountability report found that 15,000 schools didn’t include adequate ventilation systems, forcing students to breath air deemed unhealthy long before Covid-19.
But health and safety aren’t all that’s threatened by America’s “crumbling” schools. A growing body of research has found links between school facilities and learning, with students who attended quality schools enjoying higher test scores and greater rates of graduation. But kids stuck attending America’s worst schools — with their cramped, windowless classrooms, deteriorating facilities, and lack of A/C or heating — didn’t enjoy the same structural advantage. In sweltering schools without air-conditioning, one study found test scores collectively decreased with every extra Fahrenheit degree.
Tragically, America’s worst schools are disproportionately located in poor inner-city neighborhoods, thus unfairly impacting students of color — and exacerbating our country’s racial divides. All American students have a right to an education, but this right is currently available only to students who attend quality schools in wealthy (and typically white) ZIP codes with the money for school upgrades and repairs.
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Fortunately, lawmakers have finally taken steps to address this looming educational crisis. On July 2, 2020, the House passed The Reopen and Rebuild American Schools Act, directing $100 billion in federal grants and $30 billion in bonds towards inner-city schools. The bill also earmarked another $5 billion dollars for high-speed broadband and tools for digital learning.
The Reopen and Rebuild America’s Schools Act would also create more than 2 million new jobs — becoming a godsend for students, teachers, and schools, but also communities ravaged by the pandemic. But although this bipartisan legislation already passed the House inside a larger infrastructure package, this bill is languishing the Senate – even despite its potential to help reopen schools, keep students safe, and bring our economy back from the brink of recession.
Please sign this petition to demand Congress immediately pass the Reopen and Rebuild America’s Schools Act. Our children’s health, safety, and educations are at stake.