(Before) Walls Come Tumbling Down

In March, The Center for Green Schools at the USGBC released the 2013 State of Our Schools Report. The report calls for the immediate examination of America’s school facilities and outlines the need for an investment of $542 billion over the next 10 years to repair and modernize pre-K12 school buildings.

The study also states that our schools are currently facing a $271 billion deferred maintenance bill just to bring them up to working order. As large as these numbers seem, they do not take into account the need to build new facilities to handle growing enrollments — the National Center for Education Statistics says K-12 public school enrollment is expected to increase 7 percent between 2010 and 2020.

Schools need to be safe, healthy, educationally appropriate and sustainable. Many of our schools do not make the grade, but a lack of comprehensive data on existing school facilities makes determining the actual need impossible. The last comprehensive survey and study of the condition of our nation’s public schools was conducted by the Government Accountability Office (GAO; formerly General Accounting Office) 18 years ago, in 1995.

To start us down the right path, the report recommends:

  • Expanding the Common Core of Data to include school-level data on building age, building size and site size.
  • Improving the current fiscal reporting of school district facility maintenance and operations data to the National Center for Education Statistics so that utility and maintenance expenditures are collected separately.
  • Improving the collection of capital outlay data from school districts to include identification of the source of capital outlay funding and distinctions between capital outlay categories for new construction and for existing facilities.
  • Providing financial and technical assistance to states from the U.S. Department of Education to incorporate facility data in their state longitudinal education data systems.
  • Mandating a GAO facility condition survey take place every 10 years, with the next one beginning immediately.

To read the complete report, visit centerforgreenschools.org/stateofschools.