PROVIDENCE, R.I. - Governor Gina M. Raimondo today launched the School Building Authority, a component of her Jobs Plan, that includes conducting the first statewide school construction assessment as well as a new funding mechanism for public schools with immediate renovation needs.
"We know our kids can't learn in crumbling school buildings and that they must have access to a learning environment that inspires them to do their best," said Raimondo. "Today, we are hitting our school building challenges head on. With this plan, kids and teachers will get better schools and our construction crews will get back to work."
"Rhode Island has been a leader in school design and construction, with several award-winning school buildings," said Barbara S. Cottam, Chair of the R.I. Board of Education. "Nevertheless, we have been unable to keep up with the need for repairs and renovations in many of our older school buildings. I am pleased that Governor Raimondo and our legislative leaders have made $20 million available to our schools and districts to put school renovation and repair on the fast track."
"For so many Rhode Islanders, success starts in the classroom, and it is my priority to make those classrooms the safe, creative, and challenging learning environments our kids deserve," said Ken Wagner, Commissioner of Elementary and Secondary Education. "I thank Governor Raimondo for her commitment to improving the quality and safety of our classrooms and school buildings. We are fortunate to have leaders who understand that investments in education are an investment in our future."
"The School Building Authority that Governor Raimondo has launched will give school construction in Rhode Island a jump start," said Daniel McConaghy, Chair of the Council on Elementary and Secondary Education. "This initiative is good for our students, good for our teachers and school personnel, and good for our communities. I look forward a year from now to visiting many newly renovated Rhode Island schools."
The establishment of the School Building Authority and its Capital Fund were part of Raimondo's Fiscal Year 2016 budget. Raimondo's budget also lifted the moratorium on school construction, allowing school districts to move ahead on repairs, renovations, and construction that had been held in abeyance for the past four years.
The School Building Authority will fund a statewide assessment of all public-school facilities and the creation of a "prioritization plan" for school construction. This is the first ever statewide assessment of public-school facilities in Rhode Island.
This unprecedented commitment to school construction will expedite repairs for projects that demonstrate immediate need with access to funding from the School Building Authority Capital Fund. This $20 million investment is available to school districts on a "pay-as-you-go" basis and applications are due September 10, 2015. The Capital Fund includes $5 million designated for low-cost projects (less than $300,000) that are ready to go, pending funding.
In addition to the $20 million in the Capital Fund available to school districts for their share of construction costs, school districts may also apply to the Council on Elementary and Secondary Education for approval for Housing Aid funds for construction. Under Housing Aid, communities fund construction projects by issuing bonds and then receive reimbursement for the local share of costs only after the project is completed.