Senate Passes Bipartisan School Construction Bills

5-Bill School Modernization Package Will Provide Long-Needed Funding to Fix Virginia’s Crumbling School Buildings

RICHMOND, VA – Today, the Virginia Senate passed SB 473, the fifth school construction bill that passed the Senate this session. The five bills were recommended by the Commission on School Construction and Modernization to address long-underfunded school construction, renovation and maintenance needs. 

SB 473 passed the Senate today on a 37-3 vote. The bill incorporated legislation introduced by Sen. Stephen Newman (R-Bedford), who joins Sen. Todd Pillion (R-Washington) as a chief co-patron of SB 473. Two other bills – SB 471, and SB 481 – passed on Friday. Two other commission-recommended bills – SB 238 and SB 472 – passed the Senate in January.

More than 1,000 schools — more than half of K-12 school buildings in Virginia — are more than 50 years old, according to the Commission on School Construction and Modernization. The Commission estimates that the amount of funding needed to replace these buildings is $24.8 billion. Many localities face significant challenges in raising sufficient funds to renovate or replace these buildings.

“These bills help ensure that schools across the Commonwealth receive the funding to make capital improvements they so desperately need,” said Sen. Jennifer McClellan (D-Richmond), the chair of the commission. “Students need a safe place to learn, and they cannot learn if the school around them is crumbling. It’s time for Virginia to invest in addressing our crisis of school infrastructure. I’m honored to work with Sen. Stanley as we make bipartisan investments in our children’s future.”

“From the very beginning, Sen. McClellan and I have fought together for the modernization of our public school buildings because we believe that a modern school is one of the essential ingredients needed to provide a world class education for our children throughout the Commonwealth,” said Sen. Bill Stanley (R-Franklin), a commission member. “It has been a long process, but we are starting to finally see the fruits of our continued efforts with the progress of this legislation.  We both firmly believe that our children are our Commonwealth’s most precious natural resource, and  I am so very proud to stand beside Sen, McClellan as we continue our efforts to make sure that every child in Virginia, no matter what their zip code, has a chance at receiving that world class 21st century education.”

The 5 bills that have passed the Senate are:

  • SB 473 (McClellan/Sen. Steven Newman/Sen. Todd Pillion) Creates a School Construction Fund and Program to provide grants to school boards that leverage federal, state, and local programs and resources to finance the design and construction of new school buildings and facilities or the modernization and maintenance of existing school buildings and facilities. PASSED TODAY.

  • SB 481 (McClellan/Stanley): Encourages local governing bodies and school boards to collaborate to set aside for the purpose of capital projects any funds appropriated to the school board by the local governing body that are not spent by the school board in any year. Permits any school board to finance capital projects with any funds appropriated to it by the local governing body that are unexpended by the school board in any year. PASSED FRIDAY.

  • SB 471 (McClellan): Adopts changes to the state Literary Fund to make more money available to local school divisions through loans with lower interest rates than currently allowed by law. PASSED FRIDAY.

  • SB 238 (Sen. Jeremy McPike/McClellan): Requires the Department of Education, in consultation with the Department of General Services, to develop or adopt and maintain a data collection tool to assist each school board to determine the relative age of each public school building in the local school division and the amount of maintenance reserve funds that are necessary to restore each such building. PASSED JANUARY 31.

  • SB 472 (McClellan): Allows all localities in Virginia to impose a 1% increase in their sales tax, subject to voter approval and to be used solely for school construction or renovation. Under current law, such sales tax is only permitted in nine enumerated localities. PASSED JANUARY 24.

In December 2021, the Commission on School Construction and Modernization recommended several measures to address Virginia’s long overlooked school construction, renovation, and maintenance needs. Commission members include: Sens. McClellan, Stanley and McPike, and Dels. Jeff Bourne (D-Richmond), Del. Shelly Simonds (D-Newport News), and Del. Dave LaRock (R-Loudoun). Bourne, Simonds and LaRock introduced House companion bills this session.

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