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Giving Compass' Take:
• Schools and local leaders must address decaying school facilities that pose a health threat to students.
• If the Rebuild America's Public Schools Act passes, it will help fund public school facility maintenance for the next decade. What are other options that schools can turn to if the bill does not pass or if schools need additional funding?
• Read more about what happens when schools can't raise funds for facilities.
Crumbling school buildings pose health threats to students, including lead exposure, mold and water damage, and pests, according to an article published by New America, a centrist think tank. These issues not only affect the health of students, but also contribute to negative academic outcomes and increasing absenteeism, research indicates.
Some of these issues are being considered at the federal level: A 2014 study by the National Center for Educational Statistics indicated that 24% of schools across the nation were in fair or poor condition, while national studies released this summer revealed lead-based paint was present in half of K-12 schools tested and lead-contaminated drinking water was present in more than one-third of schools buildings tested.
School and local leaders are ultimately responsible for providing safe schools that are conducive to learning and can look for grants and other funding sources to improve conditions, the report said.
Years of inadequate funding during the recent recession have exacerbated the problem, which is worse in low-income communities that struggle to raise funds for school maintenance and upgrades. As a result, there are often funding gaps between rich and poor districts.
Some states are working to correct inequities in the funding formulas, but some of these efforts have been more successful than others. More states are poised to change funding formulas this year.
Many educators and lawmakers are looking at the Rebuild America’s Schools Act to potentially infuse $100 billion over the next 10 years into the nation's school facilities. If passed, the bill would authorize $70 billion in grants and facilitate $30 billion in school infrastructure tax credit bonds that could be used for the construction and repair of public school facilities and to expand access to high-speed broadband.
Read the full article about how old school facilities are a health risk by Amelia Harper at Education Dive.