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Schools in all States Need Repair, Report Says

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Washington

Thousands of school buildings nationwide need repair, but those that have the most problems have similar characteristics, a federal report says: They're in central cities or Western states, are large, and have student populations that are predominantly minority or poor.

The report, which documents the condition of schools nationwide, is one of two released here late last month. The other provides a state-by-state analysis of specific physical conditions of buildings. They are the last in a series of reports completed by the General Accounting Office since early last year and released by Sen. Carol Moseley-Braun, D-Ill. (See Education Week, Jan. 10, 1996.)

The new reports analyze data from a 1994 nationwide survey of 10,000 schools, site visits to 10 school districts, and telephone interviews in 1995 of 50 state education officials responsible for facilities.

"America's Schools Report Differing Conditions" includes environmental conditions, spending on federal mandates, and physical conditions of buildings.

Varied Differences

The report found the greatest variations in school conditions at the state level, while differences in subgroups such as region or type of school were small. For example, 97 percent of schools in Delaware need repair, while only 62 percent of schools in Georgia need work.

However, the repair needs of rural and urban-area schools differ little: 30 percent of rural or small-town schools report at least one inadequate building compared with 29 percent of schools in urban-fringe or large-town areas.

Nationwide, the percentage of schools needing repair varies from state to state, but about one-third of all schools have at least one building that needs extensive repair or replacement. (See map, this page.)

The report also found that 58 percent of the nation's schools have environmental problems such as poor lighting, heating, ventilation, or building security.

In the States

"Profiles of School Condition by State" is a state-by-state listing that covers the following:

  • Condition of school buildings and building features;

* Adequacy of environmental conditions;

* Extent to which facilities are meeting the functional needs of education reform and technology;

* Reported range of amounts needed to bring school into good overall condition; and

* Money needed to address federal mandates for managing and correcting environmental hazards and providing access to programs for the disabled.

The District of Columbia's schools were failing in almost every category. The system tops the list in the proportion of schools reporting at least one inadequate building feature, at 91 percent.

With a map of Illinois highlighting that state's schools with inadequate buildings and building features behind her, Sen. Moseley-Braun said at a news conference that the problems with the physical condition of schools are urgent. She compared the neglected condition of the nation's schools to a flooded basement.

"If you ignore the water in your basement, if you don't go down there, you don't know what it's doing to your foundation," she said.

Building on Findings

The reports by the GAO, Congress' investigative agency, were prepared after Sen. Moseley-Braun asked the agency to assess the physical conditions of U.S. schools.

The GAO has responded with a series of reports that conclude that about 60 percent of schools have at least one major building feature that needs work or replacement.

Among other findings, the reports also conclude that it would cost $112 billion to bring the nation's elementary and secondary schools up to safe and suitable standards, that more than a third of schools lack the electrical power to support educational technology, and that only 15 states have systems designed to track information on the condition of their schools.

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