Press Releases

Webb, Warner introduce bill to rehabilitate nation's historic schools

Virginia Governor Bob McDonnell, U.S. House Majority Leader Eric Cantor Support Legislation

Oct 12 2011

United States Senate

Washington, DC

For Immediate Release: 

WASHINGTON, D.C. – Senators Jim Webb (D-VA) and Mark Warner (D-VA) today introduced “The Rehabilitation of Historic Schools Act of 2011,” which provides a tax credit for communities to partner with private sector developers to rehabilitate the nation’s older school buildings. The legislation amends existing law to allow local governments to use the Federal Rehabilitation Tax Credit to rebuild decaying schools.

“This is a win-win-win,” Senator Warner said.“It can put people back to work upgrading our schools, it will engage private capital at a time of limited public resources, and it should result in safer, modern school facilities for students.”

“The need to rehabilitate our nation’s historic schools is something that brings leaders from both parties together, drives revitalization in some of our most economically vulnerable neighborhoods, and will provide our students access to safe, modern schools,” said Senator Webb. “I’m pleased to have the support of Governor McDonnell and Majority Leader Cantor for this important legislation to rebuild our ailing schools.”

In the past, schools such as the Maggie L. Walker Governor’s School in Richmond, Virginia have had to navigate an onerous legal process to qualify for the Federal Rehabilitation Tax Credit, an obstacle that has discouraged hard-pressed localities from utilizing the tax credit.

Speaking about the legislation Governor McDonnell remarked, “We all know a few basic truths about our current situation in this country. We need to modernize our educational infrastructure to ensure that our young people receive the world class educations they need and deserve. We need to get more of our fellow Americans back to work in an extremely difficult economy. And we are far from sound fiscally, with limited resources in Washington and a need to get spending under control. With those three truths in mind, this legislation makes more sense now than ever. By passing this bill, we will give our children better schools, put Americans back to work, and not increase government spending in the process. 

“They say we’ve run out of common ground in this nation” continued Gov. McDonnell. “This bill demonstrates just how mistaken that belief is. This is common sense legislation that Democrats, Republicans, Independents, school children, teachers, parents, Main Street, Wall Street, the private sector and the public sector can all support and embrace. I thank Senator Webb, Senator Warner and Congressman Cantor for their leadership on this issue. I urge the Congress to pass this bill immediately. This is a jobs bill and an education bill. It puts Americans to work today while preparing younger Americans to work and succeed in the jobs of tomorrow.”

“Many of our nation’s public school buildings are in need of significant repairs and renovations,” Congressman Cantor said.  “At a time when our country faces serious economic challenges, we must look for new and innovative ways to improve the quality of our schools for our students. Through a simple update to the tax code, this common-sense legislation will allow schools to make better use of the existing historic rehabilitation tax credit and leverage private capital to upgrade and modernize classrooms in the Commonwealth and throughout the country. We support this bipartisan, cost-effective measure that will help fix our schools, and ensure that our children have the best opportunity to learn and succeed in the future.”

In its 2009 Report Card for America’s Infrastructure, the American Society of Civil Engineers (ASCE) gave public school facilities a grade of “D.”  The ASCE noted that there is “ample evidence that local communities are struggling” to meet their responsibility for school infrastructure. 

According to Fix America’s Schools Today, a project of the Economic Policy Institute and the 21st Century School Fund, “Schools need an estimated $500 billion in repairs and upgrades” and “construction and building repair generally create 9,000-10,000 jobs per billion dollars spent.”

“With municipalities across the country unable to fund school repairs and construction, this bill will provide needed assistance, partner local government with the private sector, create jobs, and give our children the facilities they need to learn and grow,” said Senator Webb.  “Good local schools and well-maintained public facilities are key indicators of where businesses may locate. This legislation strengthens our communities across the board.”

“The proposal introduced by Senators Webb and Warner has significant promise for future students in Virginia,” said Dr. Kitty Boitnott, President of the Virginia Education Association. “Many of the older buildings that will qualify are in inner-city and poor rural divisions where additional support for education is most needed.  This measure will make conversion of these buildings into 21st Century learning centers possible.  We are thankful to Senators Webb and Warner for their continued support of our schools.” 

Senators Webb and Warner introduced identical legislation in the 111th Congress and a similar bill was introduced in the House of Representatives by Congressman Eric Cantor (R-VA).

Rehabilitation of Historic Schools Act of 2011