Every child deserves to attend a school that is warm, safe, dry and equipped for 21st century learning, but aging public school buildings are holding students back. An audit found over 50,000 deficiencies across 306 schools. These deficiencies, which would cost $2.2 billion to repair, range from threats to health and safety, to programmatic deficiencies such as a lack of adequate science labs that speak directly to the ability of the state to prepare students to be successful in the modern economy. Prior to our intervention, the total needs of RI’s school buildings was projected to grow to $2.9 over ten years, , meaning that the cost of repairing schools would have increased an average of $70 million per year in the absence of new action.
We addressed three challenges: 1. current investment was insufficient to keep up with building deterioration; 2. most of the existing state budget allocation was used for municipal debt service on completed projects, meaning the state was subsidizing borrowing costs of lower-rated communities; and 3. standards failed to ensure building upkeep. The solution invests more resources, more efficiently, with new guardrails including stronger maintenance requirements. The state will provide $500 million in matching grants to school districts, to incentivize improvements and reduce municipal borrowing costs. The state will offer districts extra matching funding for projects affecting student outcomes (i.e. STEAM, safety, early childhood education).