Shapiro administration announces $75M in grants to fix aging school campuses - TAI News
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Pennsylvania Democratic Gov. Josh Shapiro’s administration on Feb. 12 announced millions of dollars in grants to help schools address asbestos, lead and other contaminants on their aging campuses.

In a statement, the state Department of Education said the Public School Environmental Repairs Grant Program would allocate $75 million to schools to make much-needed environmental repairs and upgrades.

State Secretary of Education Khalid N. Mumin said: “Preparing and nurturing the next generation of successful Pennsylvanians starts with making sure all students have a safe, healthy environment to learn in. These grants help school districts make necessary upgrades and repairs to their buildings and learning spaces to ensure that our students and school staff have safe air to breathe, water to drink, and classrooms to learn in.”

The Department of Education will accept schools’ applications for grant funding from May 1 through June 30. Schools can apply for the funding to deal with environmental hazards such as asbestos and mold in buildings and lead in water sources.

The grant program is open to public school districts, charter schools and career and technical centers, the department said.

The Department of Education noted that another $100 million in grants is available to schools through the Department of Community and Economic Development’s Public School Facility Improvement Grant Program, which also can help fund lead and asbestos abatement along with heating and cooling upgrades, window replacement, and other improvement projects. That grant program will start accepting applications from schools on March 1.

While the grant funds are included in the 2023-2024 state budget, the department’s announcement comes just a week after Shapiro announced that his proposed 2024-2025 budget calls for $1.1 billion in new funding for schools.

“Knowing the importance of continuing to provide Pennsylvania’s students with safe, healthy learning environments, Governor Shapiro is calling to invest even more towards these efforts in his 2024-25 budget proposal,” the Department of Education said in its announcement.

Shapiro said during his Feb. 6 budget address that broken-down and substandard school buildings and facilities are a problem that affects people across the state. Shapiro mentioned the family of Pennsylvania General Assembly member Rep. Elizabeth Fielder to illustrate his point.

“A couple months ago, I had a meeting with Rep. Fiedler in my office,” Shapiro said. “I was a little surprised when she showed up with two of her kids, who were in tow that day because their school was closed after asbestos was detected. And look, I was happy to see Rep. Fiedler’s kids and I’m sure they enjoyed their time in the Capitol. But listen: There’s a lot of other families out there who would have had to miss part of a paycheck, miss a day’s work, because we didn’t do our part to make sure their schools could stay open and safe.”

The governor’s budget proposal includes an additional $300 million to address the same facilities repairs and upgrades that the current grants are intended for, meaning schools that are unable to get funding this year may be able to get repairs done next year or later if the next budget is approved by the Pennsylvania Legislature.

The fate of the governor’s budget proposal, however, remains unclear. The Pennsylvania Senate is currently controlled by Republicans — who have already indicated opposition to increasing spending — while the results of a Feb. 13 special election will determine the balance of power in the evenly split General Assembly.

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