School Climate & Safety

Construction Aid Varies by State

By Joetta L. Sack — June 07, 2005 1 min read
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States differ dramatically in how much they spend per pupil on school construction and renovations, particularly states with growing enrollments, a report shows.

Mary Filardo, the executive director of the Washington-based 21st Century Schools Fund, which produced the report, said that many states have more money to be spent in the pipeline from voter-approved bonds that has not been distributed. She added, though, that she was surprised by some of the spending disparities.

Alaska, which is seeing moderate enrollment growth, was the highest spender at $10,722 per pupil for construction alone. The national average was $5,451.

“The Role of School Facilities in Advancing Educational Equity” is available from the 21st Century School Fund.

Montana, at $1,680, and West Virginia, at $2,373 per pupil, were the lowest spenders. Both states have declining enrollments. But fast-growing California and Colorado were below average at $4,241 and $4,963, respectively, while Nevada was at $8,190.

Nearly all Southern states were below the national average, according to the report, which was released May 23.

The data, from New York City-based McGraw-Hill Construction, show that, adjusted for inflation, about $293 billion was spent on school construction from 1995 to 2004.

Factoring in a conservative estimate of 20 percent for land acquisition, site preparation, and other related costs, Ms. Filardo estimates that the total expenditure came to about $352 billion.

Ms. Filardo acknowledged that the numbers in the analysis might not be exact, but she said that earlier estimates of unmet school repair and modernization needs appeared to be low.

In 1995, the agency now called the Government Accountability Office put that cost at $112 billion; in 2000, the National Education Association came up with a $322 billion price tag.

Even though more than $350 billion has been spent over the past decade on construction and related costs, great needs remain in most parts of the country, she said.

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