This letter is available as a PDF with full citations here.
July 22, 2021
Dear Members of Congress,
We, the undersigned, write as a collection of 50+ organizations that care about youth power, equity in schools, safe learning environments and a sustainable future. As the environmental crises facing our country and world grow both in intensity and frequency, disproportionately impacting those most marginalized, this watershed moment for infrastructure provides a much needed opportunity to ensure our students’ learning environments are equipped for the coming decades.
While the Bipartisan Infrastructure Framework makes critical investments including broadband and clean water, it does not go far enough in addressing climate change and providing educational opportunity to ensure a more equitable, resilient, and sustainable future. As you develop plans for a budget reconciliation bill, we ask that you ensure this investment will support our generation and generations to come by ensuring:
- Sufficient funding to build healthy sustainable schools: Our schools received a D+ on America's infrastructure report card, and this outdated and unsafe infrastructure is detrimental to student health and learning. Providing sufficient funding for school infrastructure can help schools reduce their reliance on fossil fuels, utilize clean renewable energy, and provide healthy and safe learning environments for students.
- Adequate and energy-efficient transportation for every student: Across the country, students are taking dangerous and insufficient routes to school, with neighborhoods and communities being missed in school transportation pathways. As we invest in school-based transportation that touches every student, we should also ensure school bus fleets are electrified to be emission-free, moving us towards sustainability. We are encouraged to see some funds designated for this purpose in the existing framework, but believe that Congress must take action to ensure all school bus fleets can be electrified in the next few years.
- Up-to-date safety measures in every school, including air conditioning, heating, ventilation and protection against contaminants like lead and mold: According to a report issued by the U.S. Government Accountability Office, more than half of American public schools need major repairs to multiple systems within their facilities. Broken or deteriorated school buildings pose serious health and safety risks to students, such as dangerously hot temperatures, exposure to toxic substances like mold and asbestos, or air quality issues, which make it impossible to learn. The disrepair of American school buildings disproportionately affects our most marginalized students.
- Universal school meals sourced through sustainable food pathways: In equipping America’s public schools with the internal structures needed to support every student’s learning, we must ensure that all students, regardless of socioeconomic status, have regular and unimpeded access to healthy and nutritious meals. This commitment presents an opportunity to build a sustainable school lunch infrastructure supportive of the United States’ small farmers, particularly the BIPOC farmers historically excluded from past federal aid packages. In partnership with SEAs and LEAs, funds should be appropriated to provide students with fresh produce and food products sourced from the community.
Additionally, we are grateful to see the critical investments in clean water and broadband and want to underscore their importance to students:
- Clean drinking water in every school: In the 21st century, it is past time that every student has access to clean drinking water. Congress must ensure adequate free and readily available drinking water sources in every school, provide funding for training and technical assistance for school personnel relating to enforcement of water access policies, and prioritize energy efficient plumbing and other water infrastructure.
- Universal broadband infrastructure, ensuring every student and school has access to quick and reliable internet: The COVID-19 pandemic has laid bare the inequitable access to connectivity that prevents students nationwide from learning. Digital access is a necessity for 21st century learning, and a solvable crisis.
As we build the infrastructure to support the next generation of the United States’ communities, it is critical that all funds dedicated to the United States’ public schools are allocated in partnership with their key stakeholder: students.
The undersigned organizations remain ready to engage directly in the decision making process about federal spending and the role of youth voice in federal legislation.
350 New Hampshire
a martinez consulting
America's Promise Alliance
Association of Young Americans (AYA)
California AfterSchool Network
Carroll County Kids for Equality
Center for Cities + Schools, University of California-Berkeley
Center for Green Schools at USGBC
Cyrus Driver, Partnership for the Future of Learning
Earth Guardians Manhattan
EDGE Consulting Partners
Emily Gasoi, DC State Board of Education Ward 1 Representative
First Quarter Strategies
GENup (Generation Up)
Georgia NAACP Youth and College Division
Hampton Roads Green Party
HISD Student Congress
Human Rights Education Associates (HREA)
Iowa Student Learning Institute
Jenn the Tutor
Jewish Youth Climate Movement
Kentucky Student Voice Team
Mary Gonzalez, Partnership for the Future of Learning
National Action Network Youth and College Division
National Association of Secondary School Principals
National Black Justice Coalition
National Youth Leadership Council
Oregon Student Voice
Policy Initiatives Institute
Prepared To Teach, Bank Street College
Students for Equity through Education
Students for Gun Legislation
Students Toward Equitable Public Schools (STEPS)
Teens Take Charge
The Center for Youth Media Advocacy at Carlow University
The Commonwealth Institute for Fiscal Analysis
The Learning Disabilities Association of America, Healthy Children Project
Youth Activism Project
Youth Jobs Connect
Youth Service America
About Student Voice
Student Voice is a by-students, for-students 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization that works in all 50 states to equip students as storytellers, organizers and institutional partners who advocate for student-driven solutions to educational inequity. Through direct civic action, Student Voice helps students hold their schools and surrounding communities accountable to the Student Bill of Rights and prepares them to become lifelong agents of social and political change. For more information about Student Voice, visit our website at StuVoice.org and follow @Stu_Voice and #StuVoice on social media.