Fiedler, colleagues announce legislation to help schools assess facilities needs and access funds

HARRISBURG, June 25 — State Reps. Elizabeth Fiedler, D-Phila.; Lindsay Powell, D-Allegheny; Tarik Khan, D-Phila.; and Tarah Probst, D-Monroe/Pike, today introduced a bill that would create a School Facilities Office within the Pennsylvania Department of Education. The proposed office would be designed to help lawmakers and school district officials assess school facilities so they can adequately address facilities needs across the Commonwealth.

“The deterioration of our school buildings is a statewide educational and public health issue, and we need to start funding them with that importance,” Fiedler said. “But if we are going to use millions of dollars in public money, we have to do it wisely and ensure no funds are wasted. We have a chance now to provide our children with the 21st-century learning spaces they deserve -- let's seize the opportunity and do it right.” 


In 2023, the Commonwealth Court ruled that Pennsylvania’s school funding system is unconstitutional and that it is not enough for students to learn in facilities that are “generally safe,” the facilities “must be safe, and adequate.”

"In Pittsburgh, more than 75% of our schools had to resort to remote learning because they lacked air conditioning and proper ventilation," explained Powell. "The need for an organizing office to help schools access local, state and federal dollars for facility improvements is readily apparent. With the effects of climate change accelerating, we must invest in our school buildings now.”

Despite the fact that examples of unsafe and inadequate school facilities are well documented, including in the court’s ruling, state lawmakers and administrators do not have a holistic understanding of the scope of the problem. With $175 million for environmental repairs included in last year’s budget and millions more proposed this year, gaining a better understanding of the Commonwealth’s school facility needs will be critical to ensuring these dollars are invested wisely, the legislators said.

The School Facilities Office created by this legislation would increase transparency and enable state leaders to understand how much funding is needed and where it is needed most. It would give PDE the tools to help schools assess infrastructure needs to provide safe, sustainable and equitable learning environments; to secure and leverage federal, state and local resources to improve facilities; to maintain a statewide school facilities inventory, and more.

“As a nurse practitioner -- and proud graduate of PA public schools -- I know how important school facilities are to a student’s wellbeing,” said Khan. “I’m proud to work with Representatives Fiedler and Powell on this bill to ensure PA schools have the resources and support they need so that students can learn in the safe, healthy and high-quality environments that they deserve.”

A growing body of research shows that the quality of school facilities has far-reaching impacts on both students and teachers. Without safe teaching environments, it is extremely difficult for educators to prepare large numbers of diverse learners to become the next generation of Pennsylvania’s workforce. Unhealth or unsafe facilities affect teacher recruitment, retention and commitment, while potentially worsening the health, behavior and achievement of students.

“This bill puts children, teachers and staff first, as well as making our public school system equitable, which is in our Constitution. School facilities have a profound effect on both teacher and student outcomes,” Probst said. “Creating a School Facilities Office will increase transparency and enable state leaders to make informed decisions on how much funding is needed, but moreover, where it is needed to have an adequate place to learn.”

The bill awaits consideration in the PA House.