Needed in RI and nationwide: Reed pushes massive school repair program

(Photo by Eric Halperin) |

JOHNSTON, R.I. (WPRI) — Sen. Jack Reed called Friday for President Donald Trump to create a federal-state partnership to invest in the infrastructure of the country’s public schools, introducing a massive school infrastructure boosting program in the School Building Improvement Act.

Reed’s announcement at Johnston High School is especially timely, following a rash of schools forced to close around Providence — and the 2,000-plus student Durfee High School in Fall River — in the past two weeks, mostly due to damage wreaked by water pipe breaks and below-freezing temperatures.

Johnston High School, too, had to dismiss early at one point this week due to heating problems.

“This is an issue in every community in the United States,” the senator said. He was joined in the appeal to the White House by Rhode Island Gov. Gina Raimondo, state treasurer Seth Magaziner, Johnston’s mayor Joseph Polisena, and other state and education leaders.

A study commissioned by the governor’s office found last September that public schools across Rhode Island need more than $2 billion in repairs or upgrades.

“Too many of our school buildings have a failing grade,” said Raimondo. Discussing Cranston High School East, she noted that windows are covered with duct tape and trash bags. “Our kids deserve better.”

With so many schools having issues, she expressed gratitude and thanks to school district custodial staffs who’ve been dealing with debacles.

Reed’s office noted President Trump has been indicating strong interest in a massive $1 trillion national infrastructure spending program, though the White House has yet to draw up a detailed blueprint.

The Reed proposal is estimated to potentially support 1.8 million jobs nationwide. The act as proposed would help provide $100 billion in bonds and federal grants for school renovations and building.