Fund Our Facilities Coalition announces legislation to fund school building repairs

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The Fund Our Facilities Coalition announced Wednesday legislation sponsored by State Sen. Vincent Hughes (D), which would invest a total of $250 million in repairs to Pennsylvania’s school buildings.

The funding provided in Hughes’ companion bills, SB 555 and SB 556, equals half of the $170 million the coalition said is necessary for addressing immediate health and safety concerns and ensuring every Philly school building is safe, clean and healthy.

Funding for SB 555 would be provided through a $125 million grant from several Commonwealth special funds with outstanding balances. Funding for SB 556 would come from a $125 million grant funded from the current state budget surplus.

With each bill, Sen. Hughes has proposed directing $85 million to the School District of Philadelphia, $30 million to 134 school districts throughout the state with a significant number of students experiencing poverty and $10 million to the remaining public schools in the state.

“We are in a position to fix a critical structural need and we cannot afford to lose this opportunity to provide thousands of teachers, students, and school staffers with a healthy, safe environment each day,” Hughes said. “The investments I am proposing would help fund the critical maintenance and repair and provide those conditions. We must act now and repair the unhealthy and unsafe conditions for the future of our students and our education system.”

The legislation requires school districts to use the grant funding only for the kinds of emergency repairs identified by the Fund Our Facilities Coalition. Such repairs include lead and asbestos abatement or remediation, HVAC repair or replacement, electrical system repair or replacement, plumbing repair or replacement, roof, and window repair or replacement and other repairs or replacements that present a health or safety issue.

“The bills sponsored by Senator Hughes send the message that the Fund Our Facilities Coalition is actively working and making real progress toward improving teaching and learning conditions in Philadelphia,” Jerry Jordan, president of the Philadelphia Federation of Teachers, said.