Politics

Here's Why America's Schools Are Falling Apart

America's schools need repairs in a big way.

Our schools are literally falling apart and need our help.

Posted by ATTN: on Monday, November 14, 2016

The U.S. is short an estimated $46 billion in funding to fix such things as leaky roofs and to give students access to safe drinking water and technology, a report this year by three public school advocacy groups found.

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More than half of public schools in the U.S. need to spend money on repairs and "modernizations to put the schools' onsite buildings in good overall condition," according to a 2014 report by the National Center for Education Statistics.

But funding from state and local governments for school buildings is falling.

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The federal government gives funding to states for education, but there are no federal programs that provide funds for capital spending on buildings and infrastructure.

State and local governments fund capital spending, but the amount has been falling steadily since the Great Recession of 2007 to 2009, according to the Center of Budget and Policy Priorities.

 

Capital Spending for K-12 schools.

Why are we spending less on school repairs when we're already behind?

Many communities just don't have the money to spend on school buildings. The Great Recession hurt state revenues, and some states made the problem worse by cutting taxes, Michael Leachman, director of state fiscal research at the CBPP, told ATTN:.

"Some states have cut taxes significantly in hopes of growing their economies, and that hasn't worked out very well," Leachman said. "In those states, it's been especially difficult to recover."

The lack of state funds means schools in poorer cities and rural areas suffer the most, said Mary Filardo, executive director of the 21st Century School Fund.

"Local districts are basically on their own in many states to fund their school facilities," Filardo told ATTN:. "If you're an old coal town, or if you're in Philadelphia, or if you're an old school district that's struggling financially, or if your community doesn't have any money, then you don't have any money for your school buildings."

School bus.

Some states aren't reimbursing communities for their school capital spending, putting school districts in debt, Filardo added.

"What's been happening is you've got Pennsylvania broke; you've got Illinois broke," Filardo said. "In Pennsylvania, they have not been reimbursing the schools for the capital spending they've been promising them, so the school districts are stuck repaying their debt. And that cuts into their operating budgets."

President-elect Donald Trump's administration could boost federal funding for school infrastructure.

But there's a catch.

The private partnerships in Trump's infrastructure plan would allow builders to decide which projects to take on and which ones to avoid, according to a report by the CBPP. The places that need the most repairs and infrastructure updates could miss out if those projects aren't likely to generate revenues for a private company involved in such a partnership.

"It's for projects that are revenue-generating, and that might work for a bridge in Manhattan, but that seems much less likely to work for a school in Nebraska, especially in a low-income part of the state," Leachman said. "Given the school construction needs and other capital investments in every state, that doesn't sound like an approach that is as effective as it could be."

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