The U.S. has a critical need to modernize school facilities to meet current health, safety, and educational standards, according to a new report from the USGBC.
The Center for Green Schools’ “2013 State of our Schools” report states that schools are currently facing a $271-billion deferred maintenance bill just to bring the existing educational buildings up to working order –which breaks down to a cost of approximately $5,450 per student.
The last comprehensive report on America’s school facilities was conducted by the U.S. Government Accountability Office (GAO) in 1995 and indicated that at that time, 15,000 U.S. schools were circulating air that was deemed unfit to breathe. The USGBC report calls on the GAO to conduct an updated survey on the condition of America's schools in order to paint a more complete picture of the scale and scope of today’s needs.
The USGBC report also estimates that the cost to both bring schools into good repair and address modernization needs is $542 billion over the next 10 years for Pre-K-12 school buildings.
"Approximately 50 million students attend the nearly 100,000 public elementary and secondary schools in the United States. Many of these schools barely meet today's standards, yet it’s been an astonishing 18 years since the last comprehensive study on school conditions was conducted," said Rachel Gutter, director of the Center for Green Schools at USGBC. "We are confident Congress will take up the charge to commission a new report on the state of educational facilities across the country. We can’t continue to ignore a problem just because we don’t understand the extent of it."
Key recommendations from the report include:
• Expand the Common Core of Data (a set of academic expectations collected annually by the National Center for Education Statistics that defines the knowledge and skills all students should master by the end of each grade level) to include school-level data on building age and size, and site size.
• Improve 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.
• Improve 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.
• Provide financial and technical assistance to states from the U.S. Department of Education to incorporate facility data in their state longitudinal education data systems.
• Mandate a GAO facility-condition survey take place every 10 years, with the next one beginning immediately.