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In this March 6, 2020, photo, Saint Raphael Academy stands in the background in Pawtucket, R.I., as the school remains closed following a confirmed case of the coronavirus. 

(The Center Square) – Legislative leaders working in conjunction with Treasurer Seth Magaziner have filed a bill to extend and expand investment in the state’s schools.

State Sens. Hanna M. Gallo, D-Cranston, and Sandra Cano, D-Pawtucket, and Rep. Brandon Potter, D-Cranston, and Magaziner announced legislation that would include a $300 million bond proposal that will be placed on the ballot in 2022 that is designed to benefit the state’s schools, in addition to incentive funding for early childhood education facilities, career and technical education facilities and Science, Technology, Engineering, Arts, and Math facilities.

The bill would extend the 2018 approval by voters of the plan to provide upgraded schools that are equipped to provide present-day educational facilities.

“Our historic investment in 21st-century school buildings has already produced some amazing results in communities across our state,” Gallo said in the release. “Projects in Cranston, West Warwick, East Providence and beyond have shown Rhode Islanders what is possible. It’s critical that we build on the enthusiasm that’s been generated and keep the momentum going, because there are many other schools in need. Every child deserves a safe, engaging, and modern place to learn and grow. And our educators, who make such an extraordinary difference in young people’s lives, deserve classrooms and buildings worthy of their incredible work.”

According to the release, new incentives for energy efficiency and renewable energy are components of the proposed legislation that would be on par with the state’s Act on Climate.

Goals within the plan target net-zero emissions, and would also provide for incentives for school districts who employ local contracting companies and minority businesses.

Potter said the legislation is “an opportunity” for students to learn in a safe, comfortable, updated facilities while maintaining a commitment to sustainability.

“Our whole state benefits from investing in healthy, energy-efficient school buildings where the next generation will have a great learning environment, and we can put Rhode Islanders to work fairly in well-paying jobs building them,” Potter said in the release. “There isn’t any question that our school buildings need significant investment. We will leverage much greater benefits when we conduct this major undertaking according to values we’ve identified as important to our state: meeting our carbon reductions goals and ensuring that employment and state contracts are fair and inclusive.”

The sponsors, according to the release, said the bill that would provide a safe, comfortable, modern classrooms are “critical to student success.”

“Education transformed my life and opened the door to so many opportunities,” Cano said in the release. “We owe it to every student, in every community across our state, to provide the best possible chance at success. To accomplish this, it’s essential to have safe, secure, and modern schools. This bond proposal is so important for our state and its future. I’m especially excited about the new and expanded incentives, which will enhance educational programs and help ensure the benefits of this work reach all Rhode Islanders.”

In 2017, according to the release, the state’s Department of Education conducted an engineering study that found more than 50,000 deficiencies in the state’s 306 public school facilities. Magaziner was then tasked with forming the state’s School Building Task Force, which is comprised of educators, experts, and community stakeholders.

The group, according to the release, compiled the School Construction Plan. Under the plan, more than $1.7 billion was allocated to repair, or replace, nearly 200 schools in 28 districts across the state. The plan affected 101,800 students and created more than 28,000 jobs.

“Four years ago, we embarked on an ambitious plan to repair or replace every structurally deficient school in the state because all students deserve equal access to a high-quality education, and poor school facilities should not be a barrier,” Magaziner said in the release. “Despite incredible progress in a short period of time, there are still thousands of children across Rhode Island attending schools that are old, unsafe, and poorly equipped. We need to continue prioritizing school modernization until all students in Rhode Island are attending schools that are safe, warm, and built for 21st-century learning.”

Associate Editor

Brent Addleman is an Associate Editor and a veteran journalist with more than 25 years of experience. He has served as editor of newspapers in Pennsylvania and Texas, and has also worked at newspapers in Delaware, Maryland, New York, and Kentucky.