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Senate of Pennsylvania
Session of 2021 - 2022 Regular Session


Posted: February 12, 2021 10:17 AM
From: Senator Vincent J. Hughes
To: All Senate members
Subject: Repairing our hazardous and toxic schools
In the near future I plan on introducing two pieces of legislation to address the toxic, unsafe conditions in public school buildings throughout the Commonwealth.
The prevalence of lead, asbestos, radon and other hazardous materials in our schools has broad impact on students, staff and families — affecting everything from physical health to academic achievement.
Most Pennsylvania public school buildings were built between 1950 and 1959.  More than 200 school buildings in the Commonwealth were built before 1950, making Pennsylvania’s public school buildings some of the oldest in the nation. 
The materials and systems within the buildings are outdated, inefficient and, in many cases, unsafe. That means lead in the drinking water; asbestos in cracked floor tiles; mold outbreaks in classrooms; broken boilers in the winter; and no air conditioning in the summer.
Numerous media reports in recent years have highlighted these toxic and hazardous conditions in some of Philadelphia’s public schools. But these problems are not unique to Philadelphia. I have personally toured school buildings in Clairton, McKeesport, Harrisburg and Scranton and met with school leaders, teachers and students throughout the state to witness first-hand the often dangerous and unhealthy conditions of our public school buildings.
And further inaction is accelerating the problem. Just last month, the Fund Our Facilities coalition announced that the School District of Philadelphia needs an immediate investment of $200 million to address critical health and safety issues in its school buildings – a $30 million increase from the prior year.
In addition to ensuring we have healthy and safe school environments; both of these proposals will create high paying jobs in our communities.  As the COVID pandemic continues to rage on, we not only need to make sure our school buildings are safe but that we are providing community based jobs that pay livable wages.
Please join me in ensuring our children have the safest learning environment possible by cosponsoring these pieces of legislation.
If you have any questions please contact Brett Schaeffer or Michael Deery in my office.

Document #1

Description: The first proposal would be the Governor’s proposal to expand the Redevelopment Assistance Capital Program (RACP) to mitigate health hazards in school buildings throughout the Commonwealth.
This legislation would amend RACP to include school entities in the definition of “eligible applicants.”  In addition, it would make various changes to the program to reflect the addition of school entities as applicants to be eligible for awards through RACP.  

Document #2

Description: This legislation will be modeled after Senate Bills 555 and 556 from last session.
My proposal would establish a grant program within the Department of Education, known as the Public School Building Emergency Repair and Renovation Grant Program. The program is based on similar efforts in other states, including several of our neighboring states. The grants would be distributed to districts throughout the Commonwealth based on need and poverty levels.  It is my intention to use funds received by the Commonwealth from the American Rescue Plan currently being negotiated in Washington, DC to pay for this program.
School districts could use the grant funding solely for emergency repairs, such as lead and asbestos abetment 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.  Money dedicated for this purpose will not be for school districts to build new schools or athletic fields; it will be used exclusively for making current buildings safe and healthy for our students, teachers and staff.