The #1 Curriculum and Assessment Partner for Educators

Looking for Online Solutions?

See Our Products
www.edmentum.com

Education Funding Update: Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act

Education Funding Update: Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act

The long-awaited infrastructure bill is finally here, and like many school administrators around the country, you may be asking yourself how it will impact education and funding for your district. Let’s dig into the details.

On Monday, November 15, 2021 President Biden signed into law the $1.2 trillion Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act. While this bill will be the largest federal investment in infrastructure in more than a decade, some promises fell short, notably an effort to revive school facilities.

Schools represent the second-largest infrastructure cost behind highways in the United States. However, unlike our roads, which are funded through state and federal sources, school districts are responsible for the majority of school construction project costs. The federal government contributes just 1 percent, or $7 billion, to school infrastructure costs, almost all of which goes toward rebuilding in the wake of natural disasters. The 2021 State of Our Schools report finds that facility shortfalls are not equally shared; if a district has a high number of economically disadvantaged students, the district will have spent less per school than districts with lower numbers of economically disadvantaged students.

Failing school facilities, a persistent and yet ignored issue, have finally been put into the spotlight as schools aim to bring students back to the classroom as safely as possible. In 2020 the U.S. Government Accountability Office (GAO) found that 41 percent of districts required heating, ventilation, and air conditioning (HVAC) systems upgrades or replacements in at least half of their schools. Education advocates hoped that the infrastructure bill would provide funding for HVAC improvement projects without digging into their own pockets. Without this federal aid, districts must once again look to their budget for these repairs, including Elementary and Secondary School Emergency Relief (ESSER) funds. While modernizing facilities (like HVAC upgrades) is an allowable and anticipated use of funds, many hoped that this infrastructure bill would allow ESSER dollars to focus on addressing the impact of lost instructional time and not aiding issues that should have been resolved long before the pandemic.

On the bright side, some major wins for prekindergarten and broadband expansion made it through the final package, including:

  • $400 billion for childcare for low- and middle-income families and universal pre-kindergarten—as it stands, just 44 percent of 4-year-olds and 17 percent of 3-year-olds are enrolled in pre-K programs, and the forthcoming investment is set to add close to 2 million additional seats
     
  • $42.5 billion in “broadband deployment grants”—aimed at expanding broadband infrastructure to reach families and businesses in rural and other underserved areas
     
  • $14 billion to help low-income households connect to broadband—which could help students who live in connected areas but remain offline because their families can’t cover the cost of Internet service

COVID-19 has brought to light glaring disparities across the country when it comes to school facilities, Internet access, childcare, and pre-kindergarten. While the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act aims to address many of these issues, inequities persist, and we should expect continued conversations at the federal, state, and district level on adequately funding infrastructure needs to support the growth, wellness, and education of our students.

The federal funding landscape can be daunting to navigate, so Edmentum created this federal funding crosswalk to help state and local education agencies align their priorities to federal funding streams. This chart provides a crosswalk of the allowable uses and flexibility of activities authorized by a variety of federal funding sources and includes specific references to each act’s language as it pertains to the desired solution. Check it out!

Hadley.Blangy@edmentum.com's picture
Hadley Blangy

Hadley is a California native joining Edmentum as the Associate Director of Policy and Advocacy. She brings a demonstrated history of working at the intersection of state education agencies and partner education organizations from her previous work at the College Board and Council of Chief State Schools Officers (CCSSO). Hadley has a passion for increasing access of opportunities and achievement for underrepresented students and is excited to continue this work at Edmentum.