$500 Million in School Construction Grants Expected to be Approved in Special Session

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In the second special session of the year, the Connecticut House and Senate will take up a bill to provide about $500 million in grants for school construction projects across the state. 

“It’s a very skinny school construction bill, meaning that there is not a lot to it,” said State Sen. Cathy Osten, D-Sprague, co-chair of the appropriations committee.

The bill contains grant funding to assist 11 school districts in either new school construction or renovation projects that have already been approved by local taxpayers and reviewed by the Departments of Education and Administrative Services. The 11 school districts are Brookfield, Darien, Mansfield, New Britain, New Fairfield, Fairfield, Hamden, Manchester, Norwalk, New London and Winchester.

The projects in Mansfield and Brookfield are the largest, both for new elementary schools, and would designate $33 and $16 million respectively to the towns, although the full projects will cost about $50 and $78 million respectively. 

In addition to enhancing educational experiences for children, Osten said these bills are also viewed as job creation bills. 

“The work is usually done by in-state contractors and in-state workers,” she said. “It always ends up being a jobs bill and is effective at providing local jobs.” 

The bill, although allocating more dollars than the 2019 School Construction bill, is yet again smaller than in years past, following a trend that began in 2008. According to the Center for Budget and Policy Priorities, a nonpartisan think tank devoted to reducing inequality and poverty, state spending on school construction dropped by 45 percent between 2008 and 2017.

“The school construction projects have been whittled down over the past six to seven years, it was a change to make sure that they were not projects that were overly fancy,” Osten said. 

The bill is expected to pass by a wide margin with bipartisan support.