- According to a new report co-authored by the Center for Green Schools at the U.S. Green Building Council, the United States would need to spend an additional $46 billion annually on school building construction and maintenance in order to ensure safe and healthy facilities for students.
- The average age of the typical school building in the U.S. is more than 40 years old.
- Rural and poor communities typically see the worst conditions in schools, and many schools in impoverished urban areas like Detroit and Philadelphia are also in need of upkeep.
The report calls out Michigan, Wisconsin, Indiana, Oregon and Nevada as states that are especially in need of help in repairing school buildings, and points to Wyoming and New Mexico as progressive leaders in the area. Both Wyoming and New Mexico have statewide programs for school construction, though a reported 12 other states have no such programs, placing the financial burden squarely on the shoulders of local taxpayers.
No comprehensive federal data source on school buildings exists, though a 2011 U.S. Department of Education survey found that an estimated 14 million American students attended schools in need of repairs. Two-thirds of schools were found to harbor unhealthy environmental conditions.
Some research has tied children’s ability to learn to the condition of their school environment. That means that the deteriorating condition of school buildings should be more relevant in ongoing discussions about closing achievement gaps. In Detroit, teachers have filed suit over decaying classrooms and dangerous conditions. A city-backed investigation of schools showed that each of the 97 schools in Detroit were found to have at least one violation, with some having multiple violations. In Rhode Island, $20 million has been allocated to assess the condition of schools statewide before developing a plan for prioritizing schools’ needs.