Today, Congressmen Mike Turner (OH-3) and Russ Carnahan (MO-3), Co-Chairs of the Historic Preservation Caucus, introduced the bipartisan Rehabilitation of Historic Schools Act (H.R. 6151). The legislation would incentivize private investment to help rehabilitate our country’s older K-12 public school buildings.

Under current law, a restriction on the prior use of a property limits the ability of local governments to partner with private developers to rehabilitate older public schools through the use of the Historic Tax Credit (HTC). This bipartisan and bicameral bill (S. 1685) would remove this barrier, incentivizing the renovation of older K-12 public schools, improving the learning environment for our nation’s youth and helping spur local job creation.

“Our communities must have the ability to provide our children with the premier, 21st Century education they deserve. By allowing this incentivized private investment, school districts can rehabilitate their facilities at lower costs and dedicate more funding to educating their students,” said Turner.

According to the Department of Education’s National Center for Education Statistics, 28 percent of all public K-12 schools were built before 1950.  In addition, a study by the American Society of Civil Engineers gave the quality of our nation’s public school facilities a “D” rating.  As state and local governments continue to feel pressure in this difficult economy, Congress must remove red tape that hinders private investment in our public schools.

“Providing new schools to replace the thousands of older institutions would require money that most communities simply do not have,” said Carnahan. “However, the physical infrastructure of our schools, particularly in the inner cities, must be upgraded. Better energy efficiency, more effective climate control, power grids that are able to handle the energy needs of digital classrooms and other major changes are necessary to turn mid-Century lecture halls into the multi-media, globally connected classrooms that our students need. This legislation will allow government to work with the private market to make these needs a reality in communities throughout our nation while we create American jobs that can never be outsourced.”

Established by Congress over thirty years ago, the HTC has helped create 2.2 million jobs, incentivized nearly $100 billion in private investment, and renovated more than 38,000 buildings, while helping to revitalize our communities and protect our country’s cultural heritage. In 2011, the HTC leveraged more than $4 billion in private investment and helped create nearly 56,000 jobs to rehabilitate 937 projects.

NOTE: The National Trust for Historic Preservation, Preservation Action, Heritage Ohio and First Focus Campaign for Children have all endorsed this legislation. Letters of support from those organizations are attached to this email.