Support Rhode Island Green & Healthy Schools and Pass Senate Bill 2596 and House Bill 7125

Governor Daniel McKee, Rhode Island Senate, Rhode Island House of Representatives

Rhode Island has a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to meet our challenges head-on and invest in our future. With historic investments in the months and years ahead, we can modernize and fully decarbonize every school building by 2030.

The state has just begun the hard work to improve and modernize school buildings. About 5 years ago, the RI School Building Task Force, co-chaired by Treasurer Magaziner, put together a plan to make a significant investment in our school infrastructure which included: A $250 million school construction bond with generous, time-limited bonuses to increase the State reimbursement on projects that address health and safety issues, enhance education, consolidate buildings, etc., and requires ongoing maintenance investments to sustain facility improvements.

Since the passage of the 2018 School Construction Bond, districts have been approved for over $1.7 billion in building repairs and replacements. 28 districts have received funding, 189 school buildings have been approved for upgrades/repairs, more than 101,000 students have been affected annually, and more than 28,000 jobs have been created.

While many districts took advance of the financial incentives to fix their schools, there is still significant need across our state. According to the 2017 Jacobs Report findings, it would take $2.2B to address all building deficiencies statewide and the $1.7B generated from the 2018 Bond pales in comparison to this, and the need to renovate and upgrade our school facilities has only increased. The existing investment is not enough to meet the dire need throughout our state. Poor ventilation, crumbling ceilings, leaky roofs, mold, rotted pipes, and lead service lines not only risk the health and safety of children, but they also lead to poor learning outcomes.

Furthermore, climate change brings a monumental set of challenges. Our children will bear the brunt of the climate crisis. It's also our kids who are especially susceptible to the air pollution from our current energy systems. As Rhode Island considers effective pathways to decarbonize buildings, we can begin to tackle this challenge by starting with every public-school building in the state.

This year, the Treasurer introduced a proposal of $300M School Construction Bond which extends the deadline to break ground on existing bonuses from the 2018 bond (i.e., health & safety and education enhancements), it also adds new incentives for energy efficiency, net-zero schools, and the use of minority owned and local vendors.

A bill for this proposal has been introduced in the Rhode Island Senate by Senator Gallo (S-2596) and in the House by Representative Potter (H-7125). If passed, another bond of $300M will be placed before voters in November 2022.

It’s time to fully transition our schools into the clean energy future with good, skilled union jobs. An investment in our children and our workers is an investment in our communities.

Putting Rhode Island on the path to green and healthy schools with strong labor standards allows us to combat climate change, keep our kids and staff safe, improve learning outcomes, keep money in our communities, and create thousands of good union jobs.

These transformative investments can begin with available ARPA funds in connection with the school construction bond proposed in S-2596 and H-7125. Let's not waste this golden opportunity to modernize and fully decarbonize our school buildings by 2030.

Petition by
Erica Hammond
Warwick, Rhode Island

To: Governor Daniel McKee, Rhode Island Senate, Rhode Island House of Representatives
From: Cheryl Masciarelli

Continuing your commitment to Rhode Island’s education infrastructure, we urge you to pass Senate Bill 2596 and House Bill 7125 the $300M School Construction Bond. This proposal extends the deadline to break ground on existing bonuses from the 2018 bond (i.e., Health & Safety and Edu. Enhancements), it also adds new incentives for energy efficiency, net-zero schools, and the use of minority owned and local vendors. Modernizing and decarbonize Rhode Island’s public-school buildings cannot wait.

These critical modifications can be made using currently available ARPA funds in connection with the school construction bond proposed in S-2596 and H-7125. Investments to fully decarbonize by 2030 using the strongest labor standards will address multiple critical needs for Rhode Islanders.

Maintaining outdated energy systems prevent school districts from making greater investments in our students. This is money that could be better invested to improve school curriculum and to improve other needs. Furthermore, outdated energy systems are shown to have negative human health and environmental impacts. By constructing green and healthy school buildings with good local jobs, Rhode Island will be working to safeguard our future where it matters most: our kids.

Poor ventilation, crumbling ceilings, leaky roofs, mold, rotted pipes, and lead service lines not only risk the health and safety of children, but they also lead to poor learning outcomes. Often, some schools in the worst condition exist in low-income communities of color, where decades of disinvestment translate into lower graduation rates and higher asthma rates.

Rhode Island needs to begin dialing down our dependence on fossil fuels to avoid catastrophic climate change and meet its Act on Climate goals. Energy use from buildings represents a significant share of that dependence. As Rhode Island considers effective pathways to decarbonize buildings, we can begin to tackle this challenge by starting with every public-school building in the state.

By ensuring strong labor standards, like Project Labor Agreements (PLA) and Community Workforce Agreements currently being used by school districts on projects, future retrofits and new school construction will create thousands of good union jobs and opportunities to train new community members into family-supporting careers in the building trades. The Labor Leading on Climate Initiative at the Worker Institute of Cornell University estimates that transitioning all K-12 public schools in Rhode Island to net-zero emissions would create a total of 11,209 direct jobs over a span of nine years.

Putting Rhode Island on the path to green and healthy schools with strong labor standards allows us to combat climate change, keep our kids and staff safe, improve learning outcomes, keep money in our communities, and create thousands of good union jobs. We urge you to begin with a down payment on this opportunity in a bond referendum in 2022 and prioritize the first investments in frontline communities of color who for decades have borne the brunt of environmental injustice. With over $1.7 billion in school construction already approved since 2018, we also ask that you set aside ARPA funds for school districts that are undergoing or will soon have projects underway, so that they can invest in projects that were not originally planned.

Let’s not waste this golden opportunity to begin fixing what is broken and mobilize our transition to a carbon-free and healthy future. Pass Senate Bill 2596 and House Bill 7125!