Media Release - April 5, 2022
Contact: Mary Filardo - - 202-285-8947
Washington D.C. - April 5, 2022––“The remarks made on April 4th, by Vice President Harris, White House National Climate Advisor Gina McCarthy,  U.S. Secretary of Energy Jennifer Granholm, and U.S. Education Secretary Miguel Cardona, are long-awaited recognition that our nation's 100,000 public school facilities are critical infrastructure and that the federal government has responsibilities to ensure that our nation’s public school facilities are healthy, safe, resilient, educationally inspiring, sustainable, and equitable. This is good public policy,” said Mary Filardo, Executive Director of the 21st Century School Fund and leader of the BASIC Coalition.

During the last two years of the COVID crisis, three very important things about our nation's public schools became ever clearer. 

  • First, public schools play a critical role in the social fabric and economic well-being of our communities and nation. Fifty million children need to be educated, nurtured, supervised, and fed everyday in our public schools.  

  • Second, school facilities conditions and designs affect the health of occupants, and many buildings are not in good condition. As they assessed how safe they felt in school buildings, parents and staff were wary about reopening their public school facilities, given the inadequate capital investment and maintenance support that were visibly obvious to many.

  • Third, the structural inequity and decades of neglect of elementary and secondary facilities will not be addressed without local, state, and federal effort that is well-informed, carefully planned, effectively managed, and adequately funded over a sustained period of time–10-15 years. (See footnote)

This is why BASIC is supporting the U.S. Department of Education’s development of a School Infrastructure and Sustainability Office and the re-establishment of an educational facilities clearinghouse by the U.S. Department of Education. BASIC also supports the Clean Buildings Initiative of EPA, and the U.S. Department of Energy’s (U.S. DOE) development of the first federal funding program dedicated to public school facilities energy retrofits. 

The BASIC coalition has brought civic, education, equity, labor, environmental, and industry perspectives together to inform the development of the first federal program dedicated to funding public school facilities energy retrofits. A working group of BASIC members and allies has developed Principles and Recommendations for the U.S. DOE on the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law Section 40541: Grants For EERE Improvements At Public School Facilities
Ajay Agrawal, Senior Vice President, Global Services, Healthy Buildings & Chief Strategy Officer from Carrier Global, said, “Carrier understands the specific needs of K-12 school districts and has the expertise to ensure healthier, safer and more productive learning environments for students and staff. Indoor air quality has never been more important and through HVAC systems upgrades – like those available through the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law – school districts can achieve healthier air and improve energy efficiency and sustainability, a win-win. We appreciate the Administration’s forward thinking and commitment to programs that improve the health, energy efficiency, and resiliency of the public school facilities that are in the most need.”

Labor leader, Rob Stoker, from Sheet Metal Workers' Local Union No. 104, member of BASIC and the BASIC working group reminded us, “With a sustained federal interest and funding, we will be able to create a well-trained and stable workforce, able to install new building technologies, but also to maintain them.”

Oleta Garrett Fitzgerald of the Black Woman’s Rural Initiative said, “Our rural, small, and poor districts have not been able to meet the most basic health, education, safety, or energy standards.  But with technical assistance our overwhelmed districts will be able to access federal resources, including some funding, to make progress toward modernizing our neglected school facilities and reversing generational inequities in our public school facilities.  With better teaching and learning conditions in our rural schools, we will be able to keep and attract families and educators.” 

“The State of Our Schools report that we released last year showed that our nation’s K-12 school facilities are facing an $85 billion a year shortfall,” said Rachel Hodgdon, President and CEO, International WELL Building Institute. “We must ensure that our school facilities serve as a foundation for an equitable recovery, especially since so many disadvantaged communities suffer disproportionately from disrepair. With tens of billions of dollars in federal funding available for schools from the American Rescue Plan and the infrastructure law, we are encouraged that Vice President Harris is using this moment to highlight the need for substantial investment in cleaner air and better buildings. We can’t afford to miss this historic opportunity.” 

Timothy Unruh of the National Association of Energy Service Companies said: “Proper building indoor air is crucial to gaining full use of our public buildings. Making these buildings sustainable and efficient while cleaning the air is a natural fit, and NAESCO members support the effort to provide funding and focus on the effort to make our buildings safe again.”

“Healthy school buildings and grounds are a necessity for every child and every family,” says Anisa Heming, Director of the Center for Green Schools at the U.S. Green Building Council. “As COVID-19 transitions from a crisis to a long-term challenge, we must keep schools operational for the sake of both our children and our wider workforce. The federal government has an important role to play in ensuring that school staff and leaders understand how to keep their schools in good condition and have the resources to do so, particularly in our nation’s high-poverty schools where it is hardest to make ends meet.”

“While we celebrate the progress, we cannot let our policy makers forget that the State of our Schools 2021 report found an average annual gap for school facilities investment and maintenance and operations of $85 billion each year.  This level of funding is needed to address the health, educational, and climate deficiencies that antiquated and deteriorated school facilities create. ESSER funding for COVID related facilities remedies has thrown out a life preserver, but districts need a lifeboat. BASIC looks forward to helping secure bipartisan support for the Reopen and Rebuild America’s Schools Act (RRASA) which would provide states $100 billion in grants and $30 billion in bond subsidies to ensure all children, staff and communities have healthy, safe, sustainable, and educationally inspiring public school buildings and grounds” said Mary Filardo, Executive Director of the 21st Century School Fund and leader of BASIC.
Footnote: The GAO issued a major report that found that nearly 50% of the nation’s almost 14,000 regular public school districts required upgraded heating, ventilation, and air-conditioning systems in over half of their school buildings. In 25% of all school districts, other major building systems were similarly in disrepair and needed upgrades or replacement in over half of their schools.

The Re[Build] America's School Infrastructure Coalition (BASIC) is a non-partisan coalition of civic, public sector, labor, and industry associations who support federal funding to help under-served public school districts modernize and build K-12 public school facilities. We believe that ALL children should attend healthy, safe, and educationally appropriate school facilities. It's BASIC.

To learn more: Visit BASIC's website, which includes resources and recent school facilities news. Follow BASIC on Twitter @BuildUSschools