Sidebar: Grade=needs improvement
The American Society of Civil Engineers has assessed the condition of the nation’s public school infrastructure in a way that educators will understand: A report card.
But schools won’t make the honor roll with the grade: D.
That’s better than the F that the engineers gave to school infrastructure in 1998, or the D-minus in 2001. The D bestowed on school facilities in 2005, 2009 and again in 2013 is an indication that schools have made some progress in addressing maintenance backlogs since greater attention was given to the issue in the 1990s, but the response has been inadequate to confront the scope of the problem.
In its 2013 Report Card for America’s Infrastructure, the society notes that since the 2008 recession, spending on education facilities has declined significantly, “while the condition of school facilities continues to be a significant concern for communities.”
Like the Center for Green Schools’ recent report on school facilities, the civil engineers say a key obstacle in the effort to provide enough resources for school maintenance and repairs is a lack of accurate data about the extent of the needs. The report card urges the federal government to begin providing regular updates on the condition of public school facilities nationwide.
Other recommendations for school systems and those controlling education purse strings:
•Encourage school districts to adopt regular, comprehensive major maintenance, renewal and construction programs.
•Expand federal and state tax credits and matching funds to support increased use of school construction bonds and simplify the process for school districts to obtain construction financing.
•Explore alternative financing, including lease financing and financing as well as ownership and use arrangements, to facilitate construction projects.
•Begin comprehensive preventive-maintenance programs to extend the life of school facilities.
•Require life-cycle cost analysis principles and multi-use possibilities to evaluate the total costs of projects to capture efficiency and promote sustainability.
•Encourage school facility reviews on a state level and provide input to develop a national database of conditions and available funding.