Several organizations, including the 21st Century School Fund, the National Council on School Facilities and the U.S. Green Building Council recently released a report titled The State of Our Schools: America’s K-12 Facilities. Education News documents that the findings of this report show that K-12 public school facilities are severely underfunded due to lack of federal involvement and limited state accountability. The report found that the federal government supplies almost no capital construction funding for school facilities, and that state support for facilities differs extensively.
It is up to the local school district and community to make investments to build upon and improve school facilities. Often time districts can’t afford these improvements and are forced to make repairs out of the operating fund that should be reserved for teacher salaries, programming and instructional materials.
The last time a report such as this was performed was 1995 via the U.S. Government Accounting Office. That report found that half of all federal schools had problems linked to poor indoor air quality. 15,000 schools were found to be circulating air deemed unfit to breathe in. Alarmingly, the recent report found that not a lot has changed since 1995.
Local districts and communities are responsible for funding and the federal government doesn’t contribute, even in lower income areas. For poor communities, the result has been major inequality. It was also determined that the average age of a public school building in 2012 was 44 years old, with the vast majority requiring significant repairs. Our nation is under spending by $46 billion or, 32 percent annually on school facilities.
With states expected to bear the brunt of the financial responsibilities in regards to school facilities, many are unable to do so and are clearly missing the mark. It will be up to federal, state and local entities to collaborate to create new solutions. An overhaul is necessary in order for school facilities to meet the needs of today’s students in order to keep Americans on par with global education.
The opinions expressed in Education Futures: Emerging Trends in K-12 are strictly those of the author(s) and do not reflect the opinions or endorsement of Editorial Projects in Education, or any of its publications.