After Diamantis’ departure, lawmakers consider new rules, and funding, for school construction

The school construction program, which reimburses school districts for a portion of the costs to build and renovate school buildings, is anticipating spending more than $139 million on nine projects next year, according to legislation before the Education Committee. Legislative authorization for that funding, however, comes as lawmakers are simultaneously scrutinizing Diamantis’ six-year tenure atop the Office of School Construction Grants and Review, which ended abruptly last October amid allegations of misconduct. In February, it was revealed that federal investigators are also looking into Diamantis’ handling of the school construction work. One issue dating to Diamantis’ tenure that the legislation seeks to address is a 2019 law he supported to allow construction management firms hired to oversee projects to self-perform some of the work rather than hiring subcontractors. That law sparked pushback from the construction industry, which was able to delay the implementation of the new rule until this July. Instead of the law going into effect this year, however, the Department of Administrative Services proposed scrapping the plan altogether and prohibiting self-performance work. Another change proposed by the legislation before the Education Committee would require that any school projects receiving state reimbursements feature at least one window built into every classroom to allow children to escape during an emergency.

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