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Giving Compass' Take:
• Neal McCluskey argues that there is no school infrastructure crisis in the United States and that focusing on buildings misses the point.
• How can funders help districts identify their most pressing needs?
• Learn about the lack of school funding for poor students.
Education, both constitutionally and as a practical matter, is a state and local responsibility. The Constitution gives Washington no authority to fund or govern education, and individual communities know their needs better than politicians in DC. If the federal government is going to start funding construction and maintenance of schools, there must be a serious crisis, right?
According to the most recent federal report on public school facilities, as of 2012-13 only 3% of permanent building were in “poor” condition, meaning the buildings failed to meet “minimum requirements for normal school performance.” That rose to 9% for portable buildings. Matters did not seem much worse in the poorest districts. Districts with at least 75% low-income students had only 4% of permanent buildings in poor condition, and roughly 8% of portables.
Ideally all buildings would be in terrific condition and clearly some are unsatisfactory. But an epidemic of schools turning to dust, such that Washington should ignore the Constitution and shell out ten-of-billions of taxpayer dollars? Nope.
There is, consistent with the federal findings, little evidence that districts have been unable to undertake construction projects without lots of new federal bucks. As reported in the “2018 Facilities and Construction Brief” from School Planning and Management, 68% of districts surveyed had completed construction projects in 2017, and 72% expected to complete projects in 2018. And the trend is not just districts building new schools, but bigger schools. According to a review of 19 years of school construction data by the publication, between 1995 and 2014 space increased by 30 square feet for each high school student, 45 square feet for each middle school child, and 80 square feet per elementary school youngster.
Read the full article about crumbling schools by Neal McCluskey at Cato Institute.