Economic Snapshot | Wages, Incomes, and Wealth

Our failing grade on maintaining school facilities

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Snapshot for September 3, 2008.

Our failing grade on maintaining school facilities

by Ethan Pollack

Back to school season is always a nervous time for parents, but there is one thing they shouldn’t have to worry about: the condition of the school buildings themselves. Unfortunately, school infrastructure spending, after being adjusted for increased construction costs, has decreased dramatically since 2001. While student enrollment has increased 3% since 2001, adjusted spending on school maintenance and construction has dropped by 42%, from $34.9 billion in 2001 to $20.3 billion in 2007. In fact, the American Society of Civil Engineers recently graded U.S. schools a “D.”

enlarge imageAnnual investment on school facilities, 2001-07

Inadequate facilities can have a negative effect on academic achievement and student health. According to a Department of Education survey, 43% of schools indicated that the condition of their permanent facilities “interferes with the delivery of instruction,” with heating and air conditioning being the most common complaint. Furthermore, both the Department of Education and the Environmental Protection Agency have found that “poor environments in schools due primarily to effects of indoor pollutants adversely influence the health, performance, and attendance of students.”

If we expect our children to compete in the global economy, the least we can do is provide them with adequate facilities.

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