Many Schools Are in Disrepair. Will They Get Any of Trump’s Infrastructure Money?

By Denisa R. Superville — January 30, 2018 3 min read
  • Save to favorites
  • Print

As the nation prepares for President Trump’s first State of the Union address, a new group is calling for the president to commit to spending $100 billion over the next decade on K-12 public school buildings.

Counting on the president to highlight plans for investing in the nation’s infrastructure program, the group of advocates for school facilities says spending about $10 billion a year on K-12 facilities will generate 1.8 million jobs in rural, urban, and suburban communities.

Calling itself the [Re] Build America’s School Infrastructure Coalition, or BASIC, the group says that massive spending is necessary to get school buildings up to code, repair crumbling facilities, and build new facilities. Mary Filardo, the executive director of the Washington-based 21st Century School Fund, said that the $100 billion will account for only a small portion of a potential $1-trillion-dollar infrastructure program.

The group is tying an increase in spending on public school buildings to better academic achievement, healthier children, and job creation. It will also be an economic boost for struggling communities, the group argues.

“An investment in school facilities, on the capital side, will result in substantial construction jobs,” said Alex Donahue, a spokesman for the 21 Century School Fund. “We know that an investment in school facility construction will not only address these urgently increasing needs around the country, but it will reach into many neighborhoods—rural, urban, suburban—everywhere where there are schools. And [it] will result in very high-paying jobs, relatively speaking.”

The group wrote a letter, dated Jan. 27., to President Trump with its request. As of Monday afternoon, the group had not received a response from the White House, Filardo said. And there’ve been no signals from the White House that schools would be a central part of the president’s infrastructure proposal. (See Alyson Klein’s full preview of how education may factor into tonight’s speech.)

Where Does Funding for School Construction Come From?

The vast majority of money—about 80 percent—spent on school construction comes from local sources. It’s harder for poorer communities to find the money to build new facilities and renovate old ones, and many put off maintenance, which adds up to significant costs down the line, Filardo said.

(See Education Week’s recent special report “The New SchoolHouse: Planning, Funding, and Building Facilities That Work”) on the state of school facilities and the challenges communities face in finding money to upgrade learning environments.)

A 2017 report by the American Society of Civil Engineers gave U.S. public school infrastructure a D-plus. And while districts across the country spend about $49 billion annually to modernize schools, they need to spend an additional $38 billion more to get schools up to code and ensure they are physically and environmentally suitable for learning, according to the 21st Century School Fund, the research arm of the National Council on School Facilities.

The new BASIC coalition includes the National Council on School Facilities, the International Union of Bricklayers and Allied Craftworkers (BAC), The Center for Green Schools, The Center for Cities + Schools, and Johnson Controls.

With tax reform under his belt, immigration and infrastructure are expected to the next big-ticket items on President Trump’s agenda.

Filardo said she is optimistic that K-12 schools will be included.

“If there is a real legislative process around infrastructure, schools will definitely get to the big boy’s table, finally,” she said.

Related stories:

Photo: Basketball courts show their age at a school in 2015 in Fayette County, W. Va., where K-12 facilities have been a major issue. --Doyle Maurer/Education Week

A version of this news article first appeared in the District Dossier blog.

Commenting has been disabled on effective Sept. 8. Please visit our FAQ section for more details. To get in touch with us visit our contact page, follow us on social media, or submit a Letter to the Editor.


This content is provided by our sponsor. It is not written by and does not necessarily reflect the views of Education Week's editorial staff.
Teaching Webinar
6 Key Trends in Teaching and Learning
As we enter the third school year affected by the pandemic—and a return to the classroom for many—we come better prepared, but questions remain. How will the last year impact teaching and learning this school
Content provided by Instructure
This content is provided by our sponsor. It is not written by and does not necessarily reflect the views of Education Week's editorial staff.
School & District Management Webinar
Ensuring Continuity of Learning: How to Prepare for the Next Disruption
Across the country, K-12 schools and districts are, again, considering how to ensure effective continuity of learning in the face of emerging COVID variants, politicized debates, and more. Learn from Alexandria City Public Schools superintendent
Content provided by Class
Teaching Profession Live Online Discussion What Have We Learned From Teachers During the Pandemic?
University of California, Santa Cruz, researcher Lora Bartlett and her colleagues spent months studying how the pandemic affected classroom teachers. We will discuss the takeaways from her research not only for teachers, but also for

EdWeek Top School Jobs

Teacher Jobs
Search over ten thousand teaching jobs nationwide — elementary, middle, high school and more.
View Jobs
Principal Jobs
Find hundreds of jobs for principals, assistant principals, and other school leadership roles.
View Jobs
Administrator Jobs
Over a thousand district-level jobs: superintendents, directors, more.
View Jobs
Support Staff Jobs
Search thousands of jobs, from paraprofessionals to counselors and more.
View Jobs

Read Next

Education Schools Get the Brunt of Latest COVID Wave in South Carolina
In the past few weeks, South Carolina has set records for COVID-19 hospitalizations and new cases have approached peak levels of last winter.
4 min read
Two Camden Elementary School students in masks listen as South Carolina Gov. Henry McMaster talks about steps the school is taking to fight COVID-19, Wednesday, Sept. 15, 2021, in Camden, S.C. McMaster has adamantly and repeatedly come out against requiring masks in schools even as the average number of daily COVID-19 cases in the state has risen since early June. (AP Photo/Jeffrey Collins)
Education More States Are Requiring Schools to Teach Native American History and Culture
Advocates say their efforts have gained some momentum with the nation’s reckoning over racial injustice since the killing of George Floyd.
3 min read
A dancer participates in an intertribal dance at Schemitzun on the Mashantucket Pequot Reservation in Mashantucket, Conn., Saturday, Aug. 28, 2021. Connecticut and a handful of other states have recently decided to mandate students be taught about Native American culture and history. (AP Photo/Jessica Hill)
Education Judge's Temporary Order Allows Iowa Schools to Mandate Masks
A federal judge ordered the state to immediately halt enforcement of a law that prevents school boards from ordering masks to be worn.
4 min read
Iowa Gov. Kim Reynolds speaks to reporters following a news conference, Thursday, Aug. 19, 2021, in West Des Moines, Iowa. Reynolds lashed out at President Joe Biden Thursday after he ordered his education secretary to explore possible legal action against states that have blocked school mask mandates and other public health measures meant to protect students against COVID-19. Reynolds, a Republican, has signed a bill into law that prohibits school officials from requiring masks, raising concerns as delta variant virus cases climb across the state and schools resume classes soon. (AP Photo/Charlie Neibergall)
Education Hurricane Ida Deals New Blow to Louisiana Schools Struggling to Reopen
The opening of the school year offered teachers a chance to fully assess the pandemic's effects, only to have students forced out again.
8 min read
Six-year-old Mary-Louise Lacobon sits on a fallen tree beside the remnants of her family's home destroyed by Hurricane Ida, in Dulac, La., on Sept. 4, 2021. Louisiana students, who were back in class after a year and a half of COVID-19 disruptions kept many of them at home, are now missing school again after Hurricane Ida. A quarter-million public school students statewide have no school to report to, though top educators are promising a return is, at most, weeks away, not months.
Six-year-old Mary-Louise Lacobon sits on a fallen tree beside the remnants of her family's home destroyed by Hurricane Ida, in Dulac, La., on Sept. 4, 2021.
John Locher/AP