Congress: Reopen and Rebuild America’s Schools, Save Education Jobs, Recover Lost Time

A package of education bills to reopen and rebuild our schools, save educators' jobs and help students recover lost time in the classroom was introduced in the House of Representatives this week by House Committee on Labor and Education Chairman Robert C. “Bobby” Scott (VA-03), who was joined by Reps. Donald Norcross (NJ-01), Jahana Hayes (CT-05), Teresa Leger Fernandez (NM-03) and Gregorio Kilili Camacho Sablan (CNMI-at Large).

The Rebuild and Reopen America’s Schools Act, the Save Education Jobs Act and the Learning Recovery Act are part of the committee’s response to the severe impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on students, educators and parents. 

“Prior to the pandemic, our education system was suffering from crumbling infrastructure, understaffed schools and widening achievement gaps," Scott said. "Now, after an unprecedented disruption in students’ lives as a result of the pandemic, we are seeing existing inequities exacerbated. The package of bills introduced today reflects our commitment to helping students, educators and parents overcome the pandemic, reopen our schools and finally access a quality public education.” 

Reopen and Rebuild America’s Schools Act of 2021

The Reopen and Rebuild America’s Schools Act of 2021 invests $130 billiontargeted at high-poverty schoolsto help reopen public schools and provide students and educators a safe place to learn and work. In addition to helping students get back to school, the bill also would create more than 2 million jobs during a time of widespread unemployment. 

“America's public schools are dilapidated, falling apart and are not equipped for the teaching challenges of the future. These factors alone make creating schools a positive learning environment very difficult," said AFSA President Ernest Logan. "When you have overcapacity in school buildings, ceilings CAVING in, bathrooms that don't work, water contaminated with lead, classrooms without proper lighting and the lack of current technology, how do you expect educators to perform and students to learn? Moreover, the COVID-19 pandemic has illuminated other significant problems facing our schools, including the lack of proper HVAC systems and schools filled with toxic asbestos and mold. That is why AFSA adamantly urges Congress to pass Chairman Bobby Scott’s Reopen and Rebuild America’s Schools Act of 2021: comprehensive legislation to repair our damaged public schools that authorizes $130 billion in federal grants and bonding authority to get these fundamental and critical repairs done. Aside from making our public schools fit to reopen, this bill would also pump-prime our nation’s economy, which continues to struggle, as shown by last week’s tough employment figures, by creating over 2 million construction jobs. Our nation,  schools and, most importantly, the safety of our children cannot wait; we must move Chairman Scott’s bill now.”

“My top priorities in Congress have always been jobs, education and security, and all three are addressed in the Reopen and Rebuild America’s Schools Act," Norcross said. "Investing in our nation’s public schools will create good-paying jobs, improve educational outcomes and ensure that students learn in state-of-the-art buildings that are safe and secure. Long before this pandemic, our schools were all in dire need of repair, and now as our nation fights COVID-19 the need to rebuild has never been greater. As public officials, it is our duty to protect our children, fight for their futures and deliver high-quality education regardless of their zip codeand this bill does just that.”

Click here for a fact sheetsection by section, and bill text on the Reopen and Rebuild America’s Schools Act of 2021. 

Save Education Jobs Act of 2021

Since February of last year, more K12 education jobs have been lost than nearly all of the local education jobs lost during the Great Recession. On top of that, states are facing a $555 billion budget shortfall over the next three years. Without sufficient funding from the federal government to support states and school districts during the recovery, experts estimate 1.4 million to 1.9 million education jobs will be lost over the next one to two years alone. The Save Education Jobs Act of 2021 would establish an Education Jobs Fund to stabilize the education workforce, delivering up to $261 billion to states and school districts over 10 years. 

“Despite the heroic work of our educators, we know that COVID-19 has undone months of academic gains, exacerbated existing disparities, increased student mental health needs and left far too many students behind,” Hayes said. “The cuts we are already seeing throughout the country, and can expect to continue seeing in the future, are devastating for students and the future of public education. We need to invest in more supports, not less, to ensure that schools can meet these needs and challenges during and after the pandemic. Teacher job losses have long-lasting impacts on the quality and efficacy of learning in our communities, and only further entrench growing disparities in our highest-need districts. It is time the federal government uphold its responsibility for students and recognize the urgency of this moment.”

Click here for a fact sheetsection by section, and bill text on the Save Education Jobs Act of 2021. 

Learning Recovery Act of 2021

Left unaddressed, lost classroom time will have long-term effects on students’ success and on the U.S. economy as a whole. Researchers estimate that by 2040, the lost time in the classroom for the current K12 cohort will result in an earnings loss of $110 billion per year, and will reduce overall gross domestic product by $173 billion to $271 billion per year. The Learning Recovery Act of 2021 provides $75 billion over two years via Title I-A to build out summer school, extend school days or extend school programs. 

"The pandemic has widened the divide where our students in Title I schools, those with the least resources, have suffered the greatest learning challenges and losses," Leger Fernandez said. "We must not abandon these children. Additional Title I funding is essential to set our schools on a path towards equitable recovery. With love and concern for our children, I am proud to co-lead the Learning Recovery Act with Chairman Bobby Scott to extend learning opportunities.”  

“America’s students continue to lose precious months of quality instruction to the coronavirus crisis. This loss is only widening the achievement gap and disparities between school districts that existed well before the pandemic,” Sablan said. “The Learning Recovery Act provides funding that schools facing severe budget cuts need to address these challenges whether it be extended school years, school days or summer school to recover the lost learning time. And the Act mandates a federal study on the learning loss crisis, because our nation as a whole must fully understand its impact and possible solutions.”

Click here for a fact sheet, section by section, and bill text on the Learning Recovery Act of 2021.