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New GAO Report: Chronic Underinvestment in School Facilities Leaves Low-Income School Districts Unprepared for the Next Disaster

01.18.22

WASHINGTON – A new report released today by the Government Accountability Office (GAO) found that chronic underinvestment in school facilities has left schools vulnerable to natural disasters that could cause prolonged closures and put states on the hook for billions of dollars. 

According to the report, school districts serving high proportions of children and families who are low income, people of color, English learners, or living with disabilities are the most impacted by natural disasters and often do not have sufficient resources to prepare facilities for disasters or repair facilities damaged by disasters. The report also found that, due to deferred maintenance, many low-income school districts could lose out on federal disaster recovery assistance, which can be partially withheld from districts to account for the state of facilities before a natural disaster. 

Last year, Education and Labor Committee Chairman Robert C. “Bobby” Scott (VA-03) introduced the Reopen and Rebuild America’s Schools Act of 2021 to address the nation’s crumbling public school infrastructure. The legislation would provide $100 billion in grants and $30 billion in bond authority to help public schools, particularly those in high-poverty communities, cover infrastructure costs, and keep students and educators safe.

“This GAO report confirms what we have long known: schools in vulnerable communities do not have the support they need to keep their facilities safe for students and staff,” said Chairman Scott“The COVID-19 pandemic and recent natural disasters nationwide have been powerful reminders that our public school buildings are in urgent need of repair. However, we cannot expect schools to prepare for our changing climate or recover from future disasters without dedicated federal funding for school infrastructure. This is why the Committee on Education and Labor included the Reopen and Rebuild America’s Schools Act in its portion of the Build Back Better Act. Congress must reconsider its commitment to helping schools meet their infrastructure needs and ensuring that all students can learn and grow in safe and resilient facilities.” 

For highlights of the report, click here.

For the full report, click here.

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